Why Sustainability Matters•
Posted on July 09 2021
The pursuit of a sustainable industry — this was the reason why I started Swedish Stockings. It’s an ongoing quest, and the ultimate goal is to be able to produce new tights from old ones. Whilst not quite there yet, we’re contributing towards reaching the full circle by collecting discarded tights via our recycling program, transforming them into new products through innovative solutions.
Other brands are currently launching so-called biodegradable tights, offering them as part of the solution. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But is it really? Let’s try to wrap our heads around this.
Biodegradable has become a buzzword which brands happily communicate to their customers without explaining what it really means. This phenomenon is what we call greenwashing. Biodegradable is defined as a material that breaks down over time in a way that is not harmful to the environment. However, there is no clear definition of what harmful means. Or how long this process actually takes.
Traditional tights are made from elastane and polyamide (nylon). Elastane is a material which is necessary for the stretchy character of tights and for maintaining a good fit. Elastane is made from plastic which cannot magically disappear or turn into soil. Instead it degrades into micro plastics, entering the ecosystems through freshwater, harming marine life, animals and human health. So even though Elastane eventually breaks down, it is still harmful to the environment. Hence, you can’t call tights biodegradable. Ever.
Biodegradable does not mean compostable
Another term often wrongly used as a synonym to biodegradable is compostable. Compostable materials are similar to biodegradable materials, as they are both intended to return to the earth safely. However, while biodegradable materials are designed to break down within landfills, compostable materials require special composting conditions. So remember, biodegradable does not equal compostable! To mark a product as compostable, it needs to fulfill several requirements and be awarded with a certificate. However, no such certificate is needed to call a product biodegradable. Keep this in mind when you see a product labelled biodegradable.
As a company we have a responsibility to aim to close the loop for our products in the most sustainable way we can. Rather than (falsely) marketing them as biodegradable, giving tights a second life is as good as it gets. We collect discarded tights from all brands and upscale them into new products – for instance a collection of tables (in collaboration with Swedish designer Gustaf Westman).
Contributing to a circular fashion industry is ongoing work. We continue to search for innovations and materials which can contribute to us reaching our goal. In the meantime, we will continue to raise awareness and challenge production and material transparency and urge you to do the same. For yourself, for the future, for the planet.
Founder & CEO of Swedish Stockings
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