At the moment, most swimwear that doesn’t end up in landfill is downcycled to create products for other industries, such as insulation or carpet underlay. The goal, though, is to create a fully circular system that would allow swimwear to be recycled over and over again – which is why Stay Wild has created a new fully circular prototype in a bid to achieve this. “We’ve created a mono-composition garment [using recycled nylon] with no elastane, using a knitting programme to build stretch into the garment,” the brand’s co-founder Natalie Glaze explains. “It can then be recycled infinitely.”
The problem? The cost of the technology needed to create the fully circular swimsuit, which means that Stay Wild hasn’t been able to launch it commercially yet. It’s an issue when it comes to new innovations in the industry more generally, too, particularly when it comes to recycling. “We need solutions to scale,” Riley says. “The focus in this area needs to be on supporting innovators to scale up their processes for accepting textile waste.”
There also needs to be further innovation to help brands move away from non-biodegradable synthetics. Kintra, a new fully biodegradable polyester that’s derived from corn, is a material that we’re likely to see a lot more of in the future. “Fibres that are made from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels and that biodegrade, thus not contributing to microplastic pollution, are the way forward,” Rissanen comments.
In the meantime, opting for a swimsuit that’s made using recycled or natural materials, and biodegradable elastane where possible, is the best solution out there. “It’s about trying to think, ‘How can I have the least impact possible?’” Glaze concludes. “If you buy a better quality piece, it’s going to last you longer – so buy fewer pieces and buy better.”