While the world tries its best to grapple with the environmental crisis, people may be forgetting about an item that industry insiders are calling the “the single-use plastic of the textile world”: hosiery. Made of the same polymer raw material as plastic bottles and bags, the average life of a pair of tights normally doesn’t last more than a few uses thanks to ladders or loss of shape. With that in mind, below is a list of sustainable tight options to help you create a more eco-friendly hoisery collection. But first, let's dig deeper into this issue.
“Hosiery is a fashion item that most of us don’t think twice about when it comes to sustainability, and yet it represents two of the most problematic issues within fashion: throw-away culture and a reliance on synthetics," says Melanie Plank, head of content at the sustainable fashion network Common Objective.
In 2019, The Legwear Co founder Daniel Clayton and his team founder undertook research in the hosiery waste issue. The research revealed that an estimated 103,000,000 kilograms of hosiery waste was created in the 12 months prior. That is equivalent to 8,000 double-decker buses in a row, which would stretch 22 miles long.
"I think we’re on the right track but we’re still a long way behind other sectors," Daniel says. "Nine times out of ten people don't think twice about throwing it out, even if they are super keen household recyclers. Little do they know it’s no different to throwing a plastic bag or bottle in the bin – it sits there for hundreds of years.”
Plank points out that, during washing, nylon tights may shed micro plastics that end up in our waterways. And Linn Frisinger, CEO and co-founder of sustainable tights brand Swedish Stockings, highlights that tights are a petroleum product, meaning the production is very harmful for the environment.
Speaking about solutions, Plank says: “We are seeing sustainable brands using recycled polyester and nylon blends which is a move forward but blends are themselves difficult to separate and recycle. The key is to increase the longevity of tights so they ladder less easily and can be kept in use for longer.”
Below are a selection of my favourite sustainable hosiery options that may help you make a small but significant change to your single-use plastic consumption.