The Hankook Ilbo : The balance of seeing the world

[그린워싱탐정]<12>Recycled Clothing Consumers who purchase ‘recycled clothes’ made from fiber from PET bottles will feel proud that they have done a good job for the environment. However, not many people know that there is a shadow of overlapping ‘greenwashing’ here. First of all, even though regenerated (recycled) fibers are used only in part of the clothes, they are not properly labeled, leading to misunderstanding that they are 100% regenerated fibers. And fundamentally, as the apparel industry has taken the lead in recycling PET bottles, the food industry has lagged behind in bottle-to-bottle recycling. PET bottles are much more eco-friendly to be reborn as PET bottles, but they have not yet been commercialized in Korea. Recycled materials cannot be extracted from clothes again, so if recycled materials are used in textiles, they are used once and eventually thrown away. The greenwashing controversy of ‘recycled clothes (regenerated fiber clothing)’ asks the most appropriate recycling method, not unconditional recycling. “I use recycled polyester to make eco-friendly clothes.” This is a description of the ‘Sustainability label’ product line of the domestic fashion brand 8 Seconds (Samsung C&T), which can be found online. It uses fiber recycled from PET bottles, and it is easy to think of it as melting a transparent PET bottle, making it into pellets (grains), and then stretching it out into a thread. But just from looking at the product description, you can’t tell how much of this garment is made from recycled fibers. In the ‘Product Information Provision Notice’, which recorded product materials, only the ratio of synthetic fibers was written dryly. “Outer material: 51% nylon, 49% polyester, lining: 100% polyester, filler: 100% polyester”, etc. There is no indication as to which of these many synthetic fibers are recycled materials. At least, there is a picture explanation about ‘recycled material’ on the official website. It means ‘processing waste PET bottles to make polyester fiber yarn and use it for sweaters and fillings’. If so, it is doubtful whether the sweater and filling are all 100% recycled materials, and whether the outer and lining are not recycled materials. There is no such explanation in online shopping malls or offline stores other than the official website. In addition to Samsung C&T, Shinsegae International, E-Land Group, and Shinsung Tong’s regenerated fiber clothing were examined, but no place recorded the percentage of recycled fiber. E-Land Group’s Spao was all about writing ‘recycle’ in front of the product name online. It did not explain at all how and where and how much recycled fiber was used. Like Samsung C&T’s 8 Seconds, ‘Jaju’, a household goods brand of Shinsegae International, attached a picture description to its official website, but it also did not indicate a clear percentage of recycled fiber. It is written as “recycled polyester filling material produced by recycling discarded PET bottles”. Since there was no published data, we had no choice but to directly ask each company where and in what ratio the recycled fibers were used. In response to Hankook Ilbo’s inquiry about 8 Seconds products, Samsung C&T said, “Only for padding, 70 to 100 percent of the padding is filled with recycled materials.” In some cases, 100% recycled material is used for the filling, but the lining and outer material do not use recycled materials. Shinsegae International is said to have used recycled fibers in its padding and Dumbleboa products in Jaju, a household goods brand. A dumbleboa is a fleece-like coat. Shinsegae also replied, “For the padding, only recycled materials were used.” It means that the outer fabric or lining used general synthetic fibers. Dumbleboa used recycled materials only for the curly parts of the coat, and used synthetic fibers for the pockets and lining. However, an official from Shinsegae said, “The filling material and the Dumbleboa part are made only of 100% recycled fibers.” Shinsung Tongsang is promoting Top Ten’s ‘Eco Fluffy Fleece High Neck Zip-up’ product as using recycled materials. Shinsung Tongsang answered the question of the Hankook Ilbo, “The ratio of recycled fiber is 25%.” 75% is regular fiber, not recycled. E-Land Group’s Spao also revealed that it mixed general fibers with the ‘Recycled Loose Fit Purpleless Pocket Zip-up’ product. However, E-Land did not disclose the specific ratio of recycled fiber to regular fiber despite the reporter’s inquiry. This information is difficult for ordinary consumers to know. This is because the material is not clearly distinguished and used in the product information provision notice or the mixed use rate tag. It’s just a green tag (offline store), or ‘RECYCLE (recycling)’ in front of the product name (online homepage). At the same time, it actively promotes eco-friendliness. 8 Seconds online says, “Sustainable fashion that considers the earth,” “Find the green tag for good consumption,” and Topten puts “10 million discarded PET bottles reborn as warm fleece products” and “environmental.” A small movement to think,” he wrote. Although Samsung C&T did not disclose the percentage of recycled fiber used in the filler (70-100%), the explanation was sufficient. An official from Samsung C&T said, “We provide detailed information on the official website online, and green tags are used offline to recognize eco-friendly products. An official from Shinsegae International said, “It was difficult to write a sufficient explanation because the space on the offline store tag was small,” and Shinsegae International replied, “We are expanding the range of eco-friendly products.” E-Land Group said, “There were not many product lines, so there were no clear guidelines.” Overseas, government authorities are stepping up to sanction ambiguous labeling issues. In July, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the possible greenwashing of eco-friendly advertisements by apparel brands ASOS, Boohoo and George. The survey included cases where ‘the actual content of a product marked as using recycled fiber is less than 20%’. This is in accordance with the eco-friendly claim guidelines prepared by the British CMA last year. The British CMA has prepared six guidelines to follow when making eco-friendly claims. It was included that the explanation should be clear and unambiguous, and that important information should not be omitted or hidden. There are laws (labeling and advertising law, environmental industry technology law) in Korea that contain these contents, but they are only applied to some items such as yoga mats and kitchen utensils. In 2019, Norway’s Consumer Authority also sent a letter to clothing maker H&M asking them to accurately state the percentage of recycled fibers and information. Currently, H&M clearly distinguishes and marks them. Offline, on the product tag, write ‘100% recycled polyester outer material, 53% recycled polyester outer material, 100% recycled polyester filler’. Even online, the use of recycled fiber and the ratio are specified, such as ‘outer material: 47% recycled polyester, lining: 100% recycled polyester’. Baek Na-yoon, an activist at the Korea Federation for Environmental Movement, said, “The recycled fiber ratio is important information to evaluate how eco-friendly the product is.” More fundamentally, there is also a lot of controversy about using recycled PET bottles as clothing materials. It is pointed out that it can break the resource cycle and become an indulgence for enormous clothing waste. In order for raw materials to continuously cycle through recycling, it is best to make product A into product A. The transparent PET bottle is made into a PET bottle again, and it is recycled into a PET bottle again. However, if clothing is made with PET bottles, the cycle is broken. The technology to recycle synthetic fibers from clothing is still in its infancy, so once it’s made into clothing, it can’t be recycled. In other words, PET bottles can become clothing, but clothing cannot become PET bottles, so they are eventually thrown away. Because of this, in Europe, the food industry also makes a position statement to ‘limit the use of recycled pet raw materials in other industries’. As the apparel industry takes high-quality recycled PET raw materials to promote eco-friendliness, it is pointed out that the food industry is short of recycled raw materials. Recycled fibers require clean and transparent waste plastic bottles more than food containers. In May, the European Fruit Juice Association (AUJN), Drinking Water Association (NMWE), and Carbonated Beverages Association (UNESDA) issued a statement saying, “More and more PET bottles are used for sustainability in the textile and automobile industries, but they are It means that it is being recycled (downcycled) with a lower quality,” he said. “The EU should establish a policy that prioritizes ‘closed loop recycling (recycling raw materials only into the same product)’.” Currently, about 57% of the domestic PET bottle recycling market is used for textiles. The rest is used for making thin plates (sheets, 18%) or for export and research (25%). ‘Bottle to bottle’ recycling, which recycles bottles into bottles, has not yet been commercialized. Domestic consumption of PET bottles is 3.3 billion annually, and the annual production of renewable raw materials is about 202,000 tons. Since this year, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Ministry of Environment have changed the system so that recycled containers can be used for food, but it is difficult to supply high-quality recycled products. Until last year, due to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s notice (standards and specifications for utensils, containers and packaging), physically recycled plastics could only be used on the side that does not come into contact with food. An official from Jeju Development Corporation (Jeju Samdasoo) said, “So far, we believe that there is no confrontation with the textile industry over recycled raw materials.” Hong Soo-yeol, director of the Resource Circulation Socioeconomic Research Institute, said, “Recycled textiles are meaningful in that they use waste PET bottles instead of making new textiles, but the limit is clear that the cycle is broken.” It is desirable to seek ways to reduce or recycle waste, and to recycle and recycle PET bottles as PET bottles.” ▶Go to ‘Greenwashing Detective’: Click to view past articles on ‘Greenwashing Detective’. If you can’t click, please search www.hankookilbo.com/Collect/7017.

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