The Dangers Of Polyester And Why Bearaby Went Natural
Let’s jump deeper into the dangers of synthetic polyester and discover why the Bearaby team loves (and advocates for) sustainable, healthy natural fabrics.
Polyester is a synthetic fabric made from petroleum, chemicals, water, and air. Creating new polyester is an energy-intensive process that results in high levels of pollution and chemical by-products.
Synthetic fabrics like polyester are easy and cheap to produce, but cheap does not mean better: many of these fabrics aren’t made to last and will end up in landfills very soon.
Choosing high-quality bedding made from natural or recycled fibers is an investment in your health and the environment.
Did you know?
The textile industry is the world’s most polluting industry after oil.
Bearaby is dedicated to creating the best weighted bedding for people and the planet. We also believe in helping spread the word about how to live healthier and more sustainably. That all starts with researching, learning, and sharing the benefits – and downsides – of the bedding industry.
It’s nearly impossible to live in our modern age and not own something that’s made with one infamous fabric: polyester. This cheap-to-make, easy-to-wear fabric swept the nation (and the world), becoming one of the most popular materials for clothing, bedding, and décor.
Unfortunately, polyester production is destructive process. In textile mills and in nature, polyester has some harmful effects that should not be overlooked.
Let’s jump deeper into the issues surrounding synthetic polyester and discover why the Bearaby team loves (and advocates for) natural and recycled fabrics.
What Is Polyester?
Polyester, also known as polyethylene terephthalate, was invented in the 1940s in order to create items from film to plastics to fashionable fabric on the cheap. For the textile industry, the result was a shiny, smooth, and flowy fabric that is now synonymous with trendy, cheap clothing.
Polyester was mostly used for clothes until the bedding industry realized that polyester could be a great way to cut corners and save money on their production costs. Today, you can find polyester and polyester blends in many bedding products from sheets to pillowcases, blankets to pajamas.
How Is Polyester Made?
Not all polyester products are created equal. Some textiles are made from recycled polyester, which turns plastic water bottles into high quality fabric. This type of polyester stands out because it reuses materials that would otherwise pollute our oceans.
Other textiles are made from “virgin polyester,” which creates new plastic and is much more energy intensive. Polyester is initially made by a chemical reaction between air, water, and petroleum. A scientific reaction then creates an artificial fiber that is thermoplastic. This means it can be melted and reformed into new fibers.
To make polyester fabric, polyester pellets are melted and spun through very small holes to create tiny fibers which look similar to natural fibers. They are then spun and woven to create textiles, and later clothes, accessories, or bedding.
Most products made from polyester are typically meant for mild use. Few synthetic items are made well, and cheaply produced polyester is not a durable fabric. This low durability leads to the constant wardrobe renewal loop of the fast fashion industry, causing us to continuously buy new clothes, accessories, and bedding. Good for business, bad for us and the planet.
The Dangers of Virgin Polyester Production
Polyester and other synthetic fabrics like nylon and acrylic have gained widespread popularity because they’re easy to produce and cheap to collect. But these fabrics can be harmful to those who make them.
Creating cheap fabric from scratch poses health risks – especially when companies prioritize low prices over the safety of their workers. When making synthetic fabrics like polyester, it is important to wear protective equipment and follow robust safety guidelines. It is also important to learn how to properly handle and dispose of particular chemicals. Unfortunately, some factories cut corners, needlessly exposing workers to harmful substances
The 2013 Dhaka garment factory collapse brought the terrible working conditions of textiles workers to light. Sadly, these incidents are not rare. Textile factories are infamous for having terribly low safety standards. Millions of workers (many of whom are children) are regularly subject to chemical exposure, machine injuries, building instability, and fires.
Despite some movement towards safer regulations, the textile factories in areas like China, Indonesia, and Bangladesh still operate under lax laws and untreated water and air pollution.
Choosing to buy products that are Fairtrade International certified is one way we can help promote better working conditions in textile factories. Factories that follow the Fairtrade Textile Standard treat workers respectfully and pay them fairly, complying with specific workplace safety criteria. This is why all Bearaby products are Fairtrade International certified.
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Polyester in the Home
Unfortunately, even after a polyester blanket has made its way through the shop and into your home, polyester can still cause some issues.
As a synthetic fabric, polyester is more likely to cause skin irritation than natural fabrics. People with sensitive skin, issues like eczema or psoriasis, or certain allergies may find that poorly designed polyester-based bedding leaves them itchy and irritable. Our bedding should be the most comfortable, nurturing item in our home – not the source of harmful irritants!
Polyester bedding isn’t a problem for everyone. And high-quality polyester fabrics are less likely to bother your skin. But if you have a polyester allergy, or other skin conditions that flare up around synthetics, you may want to check the labels of your bedding items to make sure you’re sleeping at your best. You can opt for natural, breathable fabrics like organic cotton or linen to reduce irritation.
Beyond allergies, some cheap polyester fabrics are simply uncomfortable, especially as bedding. Polyester is by nature hydrophobic, meaning it repels water rather than absorbing it. So when it is used in a non-breathable design, it can cause uncomfortable sweating and chafing.
That’s why polyester bedspreads (and many weighted blankets out there) are infamous for leaving us hot and sticky in the night, preventing a good night’s sleep
That being said, if you find that your skin is unbothered by synthetic fabrics, you might not need to give up on polyester for good. There are better options available than cheap polyester blankets that will weaken after a few washes. Looking for recycled polyester and Fairtrade International certified materials might be a good place to start. Higher quality polyester bedding is more likely to be crafted with comfort and safety in mind.
Polyester and the Planet
As a plastic and petroleum-based product, polyester is non-biodegradable and uses up a lot of energy. The manufacturing process itself requires over 70 billion barrels of oil each year and uses twice the amount of energy as cotton production.
Recycled polyester is a different story. Typically made out of single-use plastic bottles, this material uses less energy than virgin polyester while keeping plastics out of nature. The resulting fabric is high quality and fluffy – everything that a plastic bottle is not!
Recycled polyester may also be an important step forward as we attempt to find ways to “close the loop” of textile lifespans. The long life of polyester fiber is a major issue that researchers are hoping to solve. An alarming 85% of textile waste in the United States is sent directly to a landfill where these synthetic plastic fabrics will outlive us – by centuries.
Fortunately, there are some small actions we can take to ensure that we use polyester in a way that’s friendlier to the planet. For example, the EPA recommends washing polyester fabrics less often and in larger loads so they shed fewer microfibers. Less laundry for you, less waste in the ocean! You can also invest in a washing net that will catch microfibers before they leave your machine.
A More Natural Approach
While the dangers of polyester and the synthetic textile industry are very real and distressing, we do have options. Each choice that we make as consumers towards a more sustainable, healthier environment is a step in the right direction.
This belief and hope for a better future is the driving force behind the Bearaby mission. We are working towards healthier sleep, healthier people, and a healthier planet.
To make our own big step in the right direction, we choose to make every decision with the environment’s welfare at heart:
- All our products, from our weighted blankets to our Hugget knot pillows, are made with natural or recycled fabrics that are Fairtrade International certified.
- Unlike other weighted blankets that get their weight from plastic pellets or virgin polyester fill, our blankets are simply made from layers of fabric that have been woven together into a chunky, knitted weave.
- We source organic cotton and naturally cooling, sustainable Tencel to make our sustainable weighted blankets. Created from raw eucalyptus pulp, Tencel uses 10x less water than conventional fibers and is fully biodegradable.
- Our Velvet Nappers are made of sustainable eco-velvet. This allows us to remove plastic water bottles from the ocean and repurpose them into stylish, durable weighted blankets. Every Velvet Napper prevents 900 plastic bottles from polluting the ocean!.
- We use a closed-loop manufacturing system, meaning we are zero-waste and sustainable.
- Every product we make is shipped in plastic-free packaging.
- To top it off, we’ve dedicated ourselves to researching as much as we can about sustainable resources, environmentally-friendly lifestyle tips, and the best ways to stay healthy naturally so we can pass it all on to you.
Changing the world takes time, but it is possible. Even one weighted blanket at a time.