A bunch of wild plastic ducks starring with empty eyes at the void
A bunch of wild plastic ducks starring with empty eyes at the void

Psychedelics of Plastics Pt. 1: Introduction

It was All Fun and Games until it wasn’t

In the aftermath of 50 years of frantic consumption, we became aware. Decades of mindless revel in short-lived goods began showing their consequences; dripping in disgraceful drops of colourful paint splattered on wild landscapes, trash became ubiquitous. It was the necessary spark to ignite a wave of public outrage and cast light on one of the many poisons injected into nature. Manilla landfills and ocean gyres stacked with waste from all over the world spoke clearly. And shifted the scale of the issue from localised pollution to a global crisis. Shreds of hard plastic were nonetheless only the tip of the iceberg.

To give a second life to the plastics destined to be dumped, the industry unanimous response pledged to re-integrate them into production. Countless projects started to and continue to push forward products and solutions to enable recycling, from the infamous recycled PET rugs to clothes made from ocean plastic.

Most textiles especially in sportswear are made from synthetic materials. They are quite literally, knitted plastic threads. As such, no different from the wrappers found in landfills, except that they shed their chemical compounds even quicker than hard plastics. Through wash and daily wear, the fibres are mixed with water and air, eventually ending in our soils and oceans.

Just Ask the Fish

The fish that ingests virgin plastic fibres and recycled plastic fibres will tell you that there is no difference between either. If there ever was a doubt about the ability of plastic to one day overpower us, micro and nano-plastics made it very clear. They infiltrated life, reaching as far as organs, bloodstreams and wombs. Plastics contain toxic substances that disrupt living organisms, interacting with hormones and vital chemical processes(1).

We are under a threat: the discourse of doing good by recycling plastic is inducing us into believing that this poisonous cycle needs to be perpetuated. As we say here, the dynamics of recycling plastic are very similar to removing infected tissue from a body, only to re-inject it later in its veins. Recycling plastic is barely buying time by hiding behind a smokescreen of goodwill before having to admit it was all a trap, and that we only delayed the real solution from happening. Meanwhile, we worsened the situation (2).

Time to Learn a New Dance

As scary as it sounds all is not lost yet. We now have the opportunity to rethink our ways of living to prevent this time bomb from exploding. And we can do it, one piece clothing at a time.


(1) A. C. Gore, V. A. Chappell, S. E. Fenton, J. A. Flaws, A. Nadal, G. S. Prins, J. Toppari, R. T. Zoeller, EDC-2: The Endocrine Society's Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, Endocrine Reviews, Volume 36, Issue 6, 1 December 2015, Pages E1–E150, https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2015-1010
(2) OECD (2024), "Global Plastics Outlook: Plastic waste by end-of-life fate - projections", OECD Environment Statistics (database), https://doi.org/10.1787/3f85b1c2-en (accessed on 08 February 2024).

Further readings