Elastane, also known as spandex or Lycra, is a synthetic fabric that is widely used in the fashion industry. It is known for its exceptional elasticity and is a popular choice for activewear, underwear, socks, and stretch jeans. Elastane is a general term for any polyether-polyurea copolymer fabric, which is composed of about 85% polyurethane and polyethylene glycol. Otto Bayer invented polyurethane in 1937 in Germany, and it was quickly adopted by the DuPont Corporation for its elastomer properties. After a decade of research, DuPont introduced elastane fabric to the market in the 1950s.
Despite its popularity, elastane fabric is not without its drawbacks. Its manufacturing process can consume significant energy and water resources, and it requires a lot of toxic chemicals to produce. Polyurethane, the main precursor for elastane, is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, and isocyanates, another raw material required in order to make polyurethane, have been linked with respiratory issues like childhood asthma. Additionally, the non-biodegradable elastane ends up in landfills after disposal. However, there are some sustainable innovations in the works, such as recycled elastane yarn made from fabric production waste and enhancements in performance and durability.
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Final Thoughts On Elastane Vs Spandex
Elastane and spandex are essentially the same synthetic fiber, but the production of elastane fabric has negative impacts on the environment. The material is made from fossil fuels and releases microplastics into the environment, which can have harmful effects on wildlife and human health.
Despite these drawbacks, elastane is a popular choice in clothing because of its stretchiness and flexibility. However, consumers can make a difference by reducing their consumption of elastane and choosing garments with 10% or less of the fiber. Shopping second-hand stores for elastane-containing clothing can also help to keep it out of landfills for longer.
In the future, it is hoped that greener alternatives to elastane will be developed. Until then, it is important to be mindful of the impact of our clothing choices on the environment and to make sustainable choices whenever possible.
Overall, while elastane is a valuable material for its stretchiness and flexibility, its negative environmental impact should not be overlooked. By making informed choices and supporting sustainable practices, consumers can make a difference in reducing the environmental impact of the fashion industry.