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Beth Esponnette claims that some of the most popular sustainability solutions in fashion—from items made of recycled plastic to take-back programs—are problematic.

In today’s fashion headlines, “sustainable” may be substituted with “least awful” to more accurately reflect reality: Less Unwanted Fashion Trends You Should Know in 2023 Fast fashion is being attacked by fewer bad fashion influencers. “Creating a More Reputable Fashion Industry by 2023.” I have come to see the industry’s attempts to promote itself as more sustainable as “less awful” than the present system. However, some of the most popular sustainable fashion practises sometimes have effects that are worse than the current quo.

Consider the utilisation of fabric that is dead stock. Material that has been rejected due to flaws or just because a brand decided not to use it is referred to as deadstock. It is the sector’s old bread. A common sustainability approach is to use deadstock cloth rather than new fabric. However, applying this strategy widely may have unforeseen repercussions, leading to an increase in demand for materials that weren’t necessary to begin with. Deadstock materials are a direct outcome of overproduction, and by purchasing them in large quantities, the industry is encouraging their ongoing existence.

Recycling single-use water bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET, to make garments is another common sustainability solution that increases demand for resources that shouldn’t exist. I tremble when I think of how many PET-made clothes I’ve recently heard say, “I’m made of 8 water bottles!” You used to take my drink. “Thank you for saving me!”

Since we consider single-use plastics to be garbage and anticipate wearing an item of clothes at least a few times, it is simple to think of recycling water bottles into clothing as upcycling. It actually moves down the lifecycle chain to turn water bottles into garments. Those water bottles may have been recycled into new bottles. However, today’s beverage companies and clothing companies fight for discarded bottles, and once they are transformed into clothing, they can never again be bottles and are unlikely to be transformed back into clothing, which shortens their lifespan.