Biodegradable, Recyclable, Renewable, Sustainable, Natural synthetic – what do these words mean?.

‘Biodegradable’ ‘Recyclable’  ‘Renewable’  ‘Sustainable’ ‘Natural synthetic’

What do YOU think these words mean?

Can you define them??  Ask your friends and you will be amazed at the discussion it will cause. Here are some definitions to start the discussion. Email us on  with your comments.

Biodegradable means that the material is capable of being decomposed by bacteria, fungi or other living organisms, normally within days, weeks or months. The elements and molecules from the material are returned to the earth or sea.

Recyclable. Recycling is the process of breaking down and re-using materials that would otherwise be thrown away as rubbish. A good example of this is using PET plastic bottles to make polyester fabric, which is then used in garment manufacture.

‘Renewable’ Some types of energy, are renewable because they have an endless supply of the original energy source. These are solar, wind and waves. They occur naturally and keep going.

Renewable is being confused with recyclable. Some materials such as wood, oxygen, leather and some plastics are now being classifying as renewable, because with time, effort and further energy they can be reused. This definitely sounds more like recycling. However, emotive words sell products.

‘Sustainable’  sustainable resource is one that can be continuously replenished, and can be used without there being a decrease in supply. Bamboo has been celebrated in the fashion industry as ‘the worlds most sustainable resource’.  This is because bamboo is very fast growing, reaching maturity in about four years, without the need for pesticide and fertiliser. Here is a quote from London Fashion Week 2018. The ambition must be applauded; the transparency and scientific credibility is doubtful.

‘Sustainability will be at the centre of innovation in the fashion industry in 2018, with front-runners harnessing the circular economy to unlock technical innovations, efficiencies, and mission orientation’.

Natural synthetic

This is a confusing term, as the terms are mutually exclusive. It has been coined to describe fibres that originate from a living source, usually trees, but then the chemical process to convert the wood pulp into cellulose and then fibre, makes the product a plastic. The resulting fibres are much less likely to be biodegradable. An example of this is cellulose acetate, marketed as a ‘natural plastic’.

Stephanie Matthews 2018

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