Polyester is one of the biggest polluters in fashion — here’s what one CEO wants to do about it

Polyester is the most widely-used clothing fiber in the world, as it’s inexpensive and doesn’t crease.Recycled bottles are now being used to produce synthetic materials and is as cheap as virgin polyester, according to Roger Lee, CEO of clothing manufacturer TAL Apparel.Made-to-measure fashion could go some way to reducing the number of garments made, but requires a shift in the industry.

Fashion has a polyester problem.

It’s the most widely-used clothing fiber in the world, but as a synthetic material made from plastic, polyester needs a lot of energy to produce and is highly water and air polluting, according to the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

The fashion industry is trying to tackle the issue, but there’s no simple solution, according to the CEO of one of the world’s largest clothes manufacturers. “There isn’t so far (a) raw material that is as cheap and as versatile as polyester today,” said Roger Lee, who runs Hong-Kong headquartered TAL Apparel.

As well as being inexpensive, polyester doesn’t crease and can be washed at low temperatures. However, the laundry process also releases tiny fibers known as microplastics, which can be harmful to marine life. While polyester lasts for years, longevity is a double-edged sword — clothes can be worn many times but will likely end up in landfill, and don’t biodegrade.

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