The thumbnail version:

  • The fashion industry is the second-biggest polluter on earth
  • Industry influencers generally agree that something has to be done about it
  • Some major players and influencers are actually making changes; others are not
  • If you care about the industry and its reputation as a major polluter, expect some influencers to let the side down

The full version:

The glitter we have been applying to T-shirts for decades is a microplastic. In more recent times microplastics have been shown to be a huge ecological problem, as I’m sure you know by now. They’ve turned up as far away as the Arctic and as close as your dinner plate. As I’ve written before: “Here’s an interesting and alarming number regarding how plastic has found its way into our food . . . We humans now ingest an average of about five grams of plastic a week—the equivalent of a credit card. Every week.”

So, given the situation, and given that the fashion industry of which we are a part is under pressure to clean up its act, you’d think that industry influencers would jump at an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to leading the industry to a “cleaner” lower-polluting future. But not so. At least not in one recent example. Here’s the story . . .

A leading industry magazine published an article by a leading ink manufacturer (relax, it wasn’t Avient) about decorating garments with glitter. I expressed my disappointment to the magazine and was told it could have been “biodegradable” glitter. However, it wasn’t. A member of the ink company confirmed that “regular” glitter had been used in the demonstration explained in the article. In fact, like me, he had never heard of “biodegradable” glitter.

It also turns out that there is no such thing as a “biodegradable” glitter suitable for garment application. The management of a “biodegradable” glitter manufacturer claimed that theirs is the only truly “biodegradable” glitter that doesn’t need special processing to biodegrade it. But so far they have declined to explain how a glitter that biodegrades when exposed to water and heat can possibly be used in textile  screen printing (think about the temperatures applied in curing plastisol and later the water and heat used in laundering tees).

So, we’re at an impasse. My attempt to contribute to a more responsible, less-polluting industry has stalled. An offer to write an article about the polluting impact of glitter has been ignored. A request to take the article in question off the ink company’s blog has been ignored. A request for an explanation of how “biodegradable” glitter could be suitable for textile screen printing has been ignored. And a veil of silence has descended. All three of the parties concerned have pointedly terminated correspondence with me.

This is disappointing, of course. But it is also depressing. If industry influencers balk at an opportunity to lead, if they show scant regard for the environment and the industry’s infamy as a major polluter, what hope do we have? Where are our principles as an industry? Do we have any?

I’m reminded of Groucho Marx who allegedly once said: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well, I have others.”

Perhaps one or more of the major “eco-warrior” organizations will take up the glitter cause.

Stay tuned.