Do you have trouble combining knitting and ecology? It’s normal, it’s a path not always easy and a little strange sometimes. There are literally thousands of different yarns (sustainable or not) on the market. How can we know if our precious balls do not contain a chemical or that their manufacture does not pollute our beautiful planet?
What are the chemical elements that must absolutely be avoided for both our health and our environment?
I have done a lot of research on this because it is important for me to know how my wool is made, through which product and process.
The problem of series-produced yarns
Factory-made yarns typically use chemicals, oil and energy to a degree that is not environmentally sustainable, as many are neither recyclable nor biodegradable and often end up in incinerators or landfills. The production of synthetic petroleum fibers such as nylon and polyester requires the extraction, refinement and processing of the latter. In addition, factories use a slew of toxic additives, dyes and a large amount of water. The dangerous chemicals commonly used in the textile industry are lead, arylamines, phthalates, nickel, chromium and formaldehyde, all of which can affect you or your loved ones, not to mention the nature and biodiversity. It should be noted that every time the acrylic wire is washed in a standard domestic washing machine, about 730,000 microplastics are released into the water. Although microplastics are microscopic in size, they add up quickly. Studies have concluded that up to 85% of synthetic waste on the shores of the world consists of microplastics! It has also been proven that acrylic, once discarded, can take up to 200 years to disappear completely. Many acrylic threads actually contain carcinogens that can be absorbed through the skin when the threads are worn. Natural threads do not contain such harmful chemicals. (Although in some cases wool and cotton threads cause unwanted skin reactions due to personal allergies.)
Of course, I absolutely do not overwhelm those who use acrylic and to tell you, I sometimes use it, we are not there for that. I think it’s important to be aware of that, though.
What to watch first
- Prefer natural fibers: synthetic fibers are made with oil and many chemicals as you will understand. You should avoid them as much as possible (unless it is a conscious choice).
- See if it is biodegradable: it means that the yarn easily disappears in nature and can degrade quickly. If a yarn contains 100% natural fibers, it must be biodegradable. Unfortunately, it is common for the fiber to be washed and dyed in chemicals that make it pollutant, as these products can degrade soil quality and water.
- Choosing local: If you can, it’s a great idea to invest in local wool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
- Focus on organic: look for certified organic or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) yarns
- Think recycled: recycled yarns prevent the rejection of some synthetic textile fibers.
The yarns to avoid
How to choose ecological and sustainable yarns then? In general, avoid synthetic fibers (such as nylon, polyamide, polyester and acrylic) or semi-synthetic fibers (such as Modal, viscose and bamboo fiber). Similarly, I recommend avoiding plant fibers whose cultivation requires the use of chemicals or large amounts of water (such as cotton and bamboo industrial, then prefer bio). Finally, avoid yarn dyed and treated with chemicals.
All of this is very complicated and it is clear that the debate is much thornier than it looks. Your version of what you consider to be sustainable and environmentally friendly may differ from mine and there is no problem with that. There is no easy choice and I had to make compromises myself, choosing quality wool often requires a budget a little higher. Acrylic, I still buy, although I always try to focus on quality wool. When I use synthetic fibers, I make sure to consider them as long-term projects. I use it for socks and some accessories. When these threads are worn out, I like to think that there will be a way to recycle them, to get the thread back for another project. If the wool is 100% natural and dyed without chemical compounds, I give it to a friend who compacts and recycles it or I deticates it and uses it for a new project. The debate about the choice of a vegan wool or not is something else and I had already discussed in a previous article.
As more and more people begin to question the environmental and ethical impacts of our choice of yarn, we should comfort ourselves with part of the wider textile industry, one that has been addressing these issues for many years. years already. Many mills now use “closed-loop” manufacturing processes that reduce pollution, recycle water, and reduce plant workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals. Plastic manufacturers are forced to consider alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and invest in ways to value post-consumer waste. Other brands now offer 100% sustainable yarn ranges and respect environmentally friendly and sustainable environmental policies.
All I want is for us to start looking at the human and environmental impacts of our purchases, asking questions and becoming aware of their manufacturing and disposal or recycling.