The vast majority of swimsuits on the market are made from synthetic fabrics — and it's not hard to see why. Synthetic fabrics have performance qualities that enable swimsuits to have the necessary stretch and durability as well as resistance to chlorine, saltwater, and sunlight.
However, synthetic fabrics come at a cost to the environment, requiring massive amounts of energy and petroleum for their production all while creating non-biodegradable waste in the process.
Fortunately, with the advancement of recycled and regenerated materials, wearing high-performance swimwear can still be sustainable. New innovative synthetic fabrics are creating new life out of materials that would've otherwise gone to waste and reducing the demand for petroleum.
Synthetic fabrics, however — recycled or not — shed microfibers when washed. These microfibers pollute our oceans and waterways endangering wildlife and putting drinking water at risk. To prevent microfibers from being released in your washing machine, we recommend placing any clothing or swimwear made with synthetic fibers in a Guppyfriend Washing Bag.
REPREVE is a performance fiber made from recycled plastic bottles. To guarantee the recycled content in their fabrics, REPREVE uses a tracing technology that verifies recycled content claims.
The company that makes Repreve, Unifi, is a global textile solutions company that has recycled over 16 billion plastic bottles to date with the goal to recycle 20 billion bottles by 2020.
Behind the Process
First, recycled post-consumer plastic bottles are collected, sorted, baled, cleaned and chopped into flakes before being sent off to the REPREVE recycling center — one of the most advanced recycling facilities in the United States. At the facility, the bottle flakes are turned into REPREVE chips and put into massive silos—each silo holds the equivalent of 27 million recycled bottles. The REPREVE chips are blended, melted and extruded to make REPREVE fiber. This unique fiber has inherent performance properties, such as moisture wicking, thermal regulation, order control, cushioning, and resilience.
The fiber is then transformed into the fabric and then cut and sewn into a wide variety of products—from clothing to car interiors!
ECONYL is a type of regenerated nylon made from waste from landfills and oceans. Going beyond the conventional recycling process, ECONYL uses regeneration, which ensures that the new fabric is exactly the same as virgin raw nylon -- meaning ECONYL has like-new qualities and can be infinitely recycled and recreated into new products.
To put the impact of ECONYL into numbers, for every 10,000 tons of ECONYL material made, it spares 57,100 tons of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere and 70,000 barrels of crude oil from being used. Saturday Swimwear Isla Top
Behind the Process
ECONYL is made using a closed-loop regeneration process. The first step is to rescue the waste from oceans and landfills from across the globe, including throughout the U.S., Canada, Greece, Egypt, Thailand, and Norway. ECONYL specifically looks for items with nylon in them, including used carpets, clothing, and discarded fishing nets.
The nylon that was is those items is then separated, cleaned, shredded, compacted and packed in a waste treatment center in Slovenia. That nylon is then transported to ECONYL's regeneration facility.
The next step, called ECONYL Depolymerization, is an innovative proprietary system where nylon’s six molecules are unzipped and returned to their monomer state. These monomers are then bonded together again to other identical monomers to form the nylon six polymer in ECONYL's Polymerization process. Monomers are the simplest units of polymers, and the process of linking these monomers to form polymers is called polymerization.
After this advanced transformation process, the ECONYL is sent to production facilities where it's processed into yarn for commercial use. The company produces carpet yarn for the home interiors industry and textile yarn for the fashion industry.
ECONYL is commonly used for carpeting and apparel, especially in swimwear and activewear. What's incredible about the regeneration process, is that once these ECONYL products have reached the end of their lifecycle, the fabric can enter back into the regeneration process and be transformed into like-new nylon once again.
Brands using these sustainable fibers:
Sensi Graves is a women-run and owned brand with high-quality, sustainably made swimwear. Founder Sensi Graves is a professional kiteboarder and is dedicated to creating comfortable, performance-level suits to empower women in sports.
All of the brands' swimwear is made in the U.S. by seamstresses who earn fair wages, and the pieces in Made Trade's Sensi Grave's collection are made from either ECONYL or REPREVE. The swim brand also donates 1% of every purchase to nonprofits committed to environmental protection.
Values: Sustainable, USA Made, Vegan, Women-Owned
Saturday Swimwear is a sustainable, women-owned brand with swimwear all handmade in the United States. Emily Laplume, the owner and designer behind the label, sews each and every piece herself in her van as she travels across the country. The brand's earth-friendly, durable fabric is made from a blend of ECONYL regenerated nylon and XTRA Life Lycra.
Considering their impact across every step of the production process, Saturday Swimwear uses entirely biodegradable and compostable materials for their packaging.
Values: Sustainable, USA Made, Women-Owned