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The hidden plastics in our clothes – and how to avoid them

Most people know that polyester trousers are made of plastic. But, from labels to threads and zippers, it is lurking in many less obvious places too. Here’s how to minimise the amount in your wardrobe – and the harm it causes

Two common plastics, polyester and nylon, account for 69% of all the materials used in clothing globally and that number is expected to increase to 75% by 2030, according to Georgia Rae-Taylor, the sustainability strategy director for environmental consultancy Eco-age. Photograph: Rightdisc/AlamyThere was a time when buttons were delicate baubles carved from shells and wood or fashioned from metal, ceramics and glass, but sadly this is no longer the case; now they are usually made from plastic. While polyester and nylon are smooth enough to provide one of the intended benefits of lining – making it easier to put your arm through a sleeve or step into a pair of trousers – because they are plastic, they ultimately do garments a great disservice.

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