TOTAL GARBAGE

That's rubbish! Sorry, didn't mean to be rude. I mean, literally. Garbage is the buzziest swimwear ingredient this summer, being used in everything from bikinis to boardies and rash vests. Not just any load of old rubbish of course. Specifically: plastic of the sort that often ends up in our beleaguered oceans, swirling into an unfathomable mass known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. By 2025, we'll be releasing 8 million tonnes of plastic into the water EVERY YEAR, enough to cover 5 per cent of the earth's surface in clingwrap.

Georgia May Jagger is the face of Volcom’s new swimmers – in a former life they were discarded fishing nets.

Georgia May Jagger is the face of Volcom’s new swimmers – in a former life they were discarded fishing nets.

Fashion is heeding the call to do something about this. Surfer-turned-fashionista Kelly Slater was the first big name to promote Econyl, a wonder nylon yarn upcycled from old carpets and abandoned fishing nets. Known as "ghost nets", the latter make up an estimated 10 per cent of marine debris. Slater and his business partner John Moore use Econyl to make jackets and board shorts for their "coastal lifestyle" brand Outerknown.

Meanwhile Pharrell has been spreading the word about Bionic Yarn used in G-Star's Raw For The Oceans collections. It blends cotton with a recycled polyester thread made from ocean trash in the form of discarded PET bottles collected directly from beaches (some of them in Australia).

Plastic fantastic - Patagonia's bikini uses recycled poly.

Plastic fantastic - Patagonia's bikini uses recycled poly.

Patagonia, the American outdoor-gear company, pioneered the use of recycled polyester made from old plastic soda bottles "destined for the dump" back in 1993. Not only does the process reduce dependence on virgin resources, says Patagonia's country director for Australia and New Zealand, Dane O'Shanassy; it also reduces toxic emissions from incinerators. Patagonia has been using this poly in its men's boardies for ages, but women's cossies have been trickier. Usually, they call for a mix of nylon blended with something stretchy like Lycra for its body-sculpting qualities.

"For some reason locked deep in polymer chemistry, nylon is more difficult to recycle than polyester," says O'Shanassy. "After years of research, development, and testing, we're finally finding some recycled nylon fibres that are suitable for apparel." Case in point, Patagonia's surftastic new bikinis – in bold colours and modern shapes, they look cool as well as being better for the planet. 

"Some of the recycled nylon we use comes from post-industrial waste fibre; [some is waste] yarn collected from spinning factories or weaving mills," explains O'Shanassy.

Alas, "post-industrial waste fibre" just isn't as sexy as the idea of taking trash directly from our oceans and using it to make something fabulous to swim in. Mainstream surf brands are working out this is marketing gold.

Slater's former sponsor Quiksilver and its sister brand Roxy are using this recycled poly. Rip Curl promotes it via its Rip Curl Planet label. Last month Volcom launched Simply Solid, an "ocean friendly" range of women's swimmers made from 78 per cent regenerated Econyl yarn, and promoted by Georgia May Jagger swathed in a fishing net with the tagline: "Caught up in a good thing".

Patagonia's O'Shanassy says he believes people are becoming more aware of the declining health of the planet, and the impact of our consumption on it. "More people are evaluating what footprint is being left behind." 

If you're going to buy new togs this summer, and you have the option of choosing some made from recycled ocean plastics, why wouldn't you?

Save The PlanetClare Press