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Recycled plastics: Great for outdoor clothing and gear, good for Mother Nature, too

Warmer weather often leads people outdoors for camping, swimming, hiking, cycling or running – and to a renewed appreciation for our natural environment. One of the easiest ways to lighten our environmental footprint while enjoying the outdoors is to look for outdoor gear made with recycled plastics, including outdoor clothing.

Plastic clothing? In fact, most modern performance clothing – swimsuits, exercise outfits, sports uniforms, outdoorsy apparel – is made with fabrics from plastics such as nylon, polyester and spandex that are very durable and lightweight. And it’s not only outdoor clothing – from H&M to Gucci, some of fashion’s big names have embraced recycled plastics in fashion, and many celebrities are raising the profile of eco-chic apparel such as recycled plastics in clothing.

The process of creating fabrics from recycled plastics is simple. First, used plastics (such as beverage bottles) are collected and transported to recycling centers. The plastics are separated, cleaned, melted and stretched into a fine thread that’s woven into fabrics. Thanks to the versatility of recycled plastics, these fabrics can be manufactured with a variety of weights and textures for a wide range of outdoor uses, from swimsuits to backpacks.

Here are some examples of outdoor clothing and gear that give used plastics a new life:

Outdoor performance clothing made with recycled plastics, such as leggings, leotards, T-shirts and socks, is durable enough to last for many seasons, but it’s also soft enough for hours of comfortable wear. Clothing made with these fabrics often uses less energy to launder than other fabrics, which helps reduce our impact on the environment, so we can look good while doing good.

Swimwear made with recycled plastics is now available in a wide variety of designs and options, with long-lasting fabrics that resist shrinking, stretching, and fading. Manufacturers say swimsuits made with plastic fabrics also dry quickly, don’t weaken when wet, and last longer, which saves money over time.

Fleece jackets today typically are made with polyester fabrics (often called microfiber) – they’re lightweight, cozy and quick to dry. Companies actually began incorporating recycled polyester into fleece fabrics back in the 1990s, and it’s now easy to find fleece jackets made with recycled plastic from bottles.

For outdoor camping equipment such as sleeping bags, seek out versions made with recycled polyester plastic. Not only does the high-performance fabric keep people cozy and warm, but it also diverts used plastics from landfills and turns them into a valuable resource.

It also is easy to find a variety of sturdy backpacks made with recycled plastics. Although some recycled plastic fabrics are soft and comfortable, they also can be manufactured to be rugged and tough – perfect for carrying your gear on your next hike or camping trip.

And while enjoying the outdoors, be sure to recycle the plastic bottles, jugs and containers that you take on your trip – it helps reduce waste and creates the raw material for new outdoor clothing and gear.

Visit Earth911.com or IWantToBeRecycled.org to see what’s accepted for recycling in your community.

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