How Long Will It Take For Fabrics to Decompose?

The trendy clothes you wore, from leather jackets to classic synthetic-made chic skirts, may have a great first impression on others, but have you ever thought of their impact on our planet? 

Over the years, fashion has always been a way for people to express themselves and their creativity. Along with the introduction of countless various styles, there came a variety of different textile materials used for people to explore. 

However, while the innovation of new textiles paved the way for the industry to flourish, the environmental impacts of these man-made fabrics are not something to be celebrated, particularly those made with petrochemicals. 

According to Roadrunner Smarter Recycling, the volume of clothing Americans throw away every year has doubled in the last 20 years. From 7 million tons, the textile waste that ended up in most landfills increased to 14 million tons. 

"When consumers throw away clothing in the garbage, not only does it waste money and resources, but it can take 200+ years for the materials to decompose in a landfill," said Roadrunner in an article. 

"During the decomposition process, textiles generate greenhouse methane gas and leach toxic chemicals and dyes into the groundwater and our soil," it added. 

Since recycling textile materials involves a lot of processes, sending them to landfills seems to be the easiest method for some. Unfortunately, this "throwaway culture" has made clothing one of the planet's biggest culprits to environmental problems. 

At Cottonique, we always consider our responsibility towards the environment when we produce our allergy-free clothing made with 100% organic cotton. To help you choose the most sustainable option, here is a decomposition timeline of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable fabrics. 

NON-BIODEGRADABLE 

1. NYLON

Despite its known durable attributes in swimwear, activewear, and hosiery lines, nylon is still a synthetic fabric made of plastic derived from crude oil. It will probably take around 30 to 40 years for nylon to decompose. 

2. POLYESTER

Polyester is a manufactured synthetic fiber derived from carbon-intensive, non-renewable, and non-biodegradable resources. This synthetic fabric takes around 20 to 200 years to decompose, polluting marine bodies and harming the environment in the process. 

3. SPANDEX

Spandex is made from harmful chemical substances like polyurethane, which is a considered carcinogen. Just like polyester, Spandex is a form of plastic, making it one of the least sustainable fabrics on the market. Timeframe for decomposition? 

4. SEQUINS 

“Shining, shimmering” isn't all that splendid when you're wearing sequin-covered miniskirts, tutus, and even masks. Despite their aesthetic appeal, sequins can be terrible for the environment since they are commonly made from petroleum-based plastics and synthetic resin. How long will it take for them to decompose? Around hundreds of years since plastic isn't biodegradable.

5. DENIM 

Albeit made with cotton or cotton-synthetic mix, denim may still be one of the least eco-friendly fabrics considering the massive resources used to produce them. According to an article, denim's hardier fabric takes 10 to 12 months to fully biodegrade.

6. ACRYLIC 

Despite its durability and affordability, acrylic fabric isn't both sustainable and biodegradable. 

Acrylic is a completely man-made fabric, composed of petroleum or coal-based compounds. It would take approximately 200 years to decompose just like other synthetic fabrics. 

BIODEGRADABLE 

1. LINEN

Known for its both functional and ethical appeal, linen is one of the most-used yet environmentally-friendly textiles in the world. In as little as two weeks, this fine natural material can be decomposed by cutting it into smaller pieces, allowing the decomposition process to take faster. 

2. WOOL 

Another natural and renewable resource is wool. Typically, sweaters made from wool last long, retain shape, and keep texture over long periods. But when wool garments have been disposed of, they will naturally decompose and slowly return nutrients into the soil after 1 to 5 years, depending on the blend. 

3. BAMBOO 

Similar to wool, bamboo is another natural fiber that everyone can compost. According to Green Eco Friend, bamboo normally takes around a year or more to biodegrade.

4. HEMP

Unlike other synthetic-made fabrics, organic hemp fiber is completely biodegradable and compostable. The cultivation of hemp and the production of garments made from this sustainable fiber have a fairly low environmental impact. They can decompose in about 2 weeks.

5. SILK

Created from the cocoons of silkworms, silk is a natural protein fiber and a biodegradable resource. The methods of acquiring organic or raw silk fibers don't involve chemicals or treatments and may typically show signs of degradation for about 4 years.

6. COTTON 

Last but the least, the world's wonder fiber: cotton. Recognized for its mellowness, comfort, and breathability, cotton is a versatile material utilized around the world because of its fast decomposition. Clothing items made with 100% organic cotton can break down as quickly as a week. 

In cultivating organic cotton, everything is sustainable. Organic cotton farming works with nature by reducing water consumption, saving energy resources, and maintaining soil fertility. Garments made with 100% organic cotton usually decompose within 1 week to 5 months. 

TAKEAWAY: With sustainability in mind, Cottonique believes that everyone should concern themselves with the environmental impact of their clothing choices. Knowing the nature and biodegradability of the clothes you're wearing is crucial to preventing clothes from becoming a disposable commodity. 

Whether a fabric is biodegradable or not, the most conscious consumers demand more from apparel brands and always choose the most sustainable options. If you're looking for safer clothing pieces that allow people with skin allergies and sensitivities to live easily without the use of synthetics, check out our allergy-free clothing made with 100% organic cotton. 

Read why it's crucial to wear organic cotton clothes here: Why Wear Organic? You may also read: 4 Top Petroleum-Based Fabrics You Should Avoid

DISCLAIMER: The information presented on Cottonique is not, and will never be, intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content materials found on this site, from text, treatments, outcomes, charts, graphics, photographs, and study findings, are created and published for general informational purposes only. It should not, in any way, be construed as a standard of care to be followed by a user of the website. 

Thus, readers are encouraged to verify any information obtained from this website with other accurate references and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with their physician. As Cottonique strives to help those with allergies live with better days, the hypoallergenic apparel brand encourages everyone to always seek the advice of their physician or other qualified health providers with any questions they may have regarding a medical condition.

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.