'Wake up call': Distressing secret behind your favourite jeans

Jeans are a staple in most people’s wardrobe, but lurking beneath the coarse exterior of stretch designs lies a devastating secret.

One pair was put through a rigorous cycle of composting by NSW permaculture coach Meg McGowan - they spent time in a regular household compost bin, a hot compost and a worm hotel.

After a year however, the jeans had still not broken down and had instead transformed into a huge hunk of tangled plastic.

They didn’t break down due to largely been made from elastane from polyether-polyurea copolymer according to the permaculture coach, who shared photos of her work to Facebook this week.

“This pair of stretch jeans would usually have been repurposed but I sacrificed them to the compost bin just to see how much of the fabric was cotton and how much was plastic,” Ms McGowan’s post read.

Photo shows lots of plastic strings making up the inside of an old pair of jeans.
Shreds of plastic were left off a pair of jeans after they were composted for a year. Source: Facebook/Permacoach

“We now know that most plastics do not break down. Our disposal options are to burn them and release toxic fumes or to not burn them and have them persist in our environment, possibly forever, as micro plastic particles.

She added that microplastics like these were now being found inside the bodies of animals, including humans, with unknown long-term consequences.

“Our best option is to take good care of the clothing we already have and to refuse to add anything to our wardrobe until we actually need to replace something,” she wrote.

Hundreds were gobsmacked by what her test revealed, some expressing they were completely unaware of just how much plastic was contained inside a single pair of stretch jeans.

“I literally live in stretch jeans, and have always had niggling guilt about the plastics they contain,” one person wrote in a comment.

Photo shows an old pair of jeans that has transformed into stringy bits of plastic.
The former clothing item took on an unsightly form after the year-long experiment. Source: Facebook/Permacoach

“I've been worrying lately about the world's obsession with spandex and elastane in so much clothing that we wear daily,” another said.

Ms McGowan encouraged environmentally conscious followers to avoid buying new clothing where possible, and instead search second-hand stores for pre-loved items.

“Here's hoping we collectively convince people to wear clothing until it wears out, to buy second-hand and to think about all of the issues surrounding our clothing,” she wrote in a comment.

One lady said the photos had been the “wake-up call” she had been needing, and was now determined to wear authentic denim instead of stretch denim.

“Big wake-up call. Maybe I'll get more determined to lose weight and fit into proper denim rather than rely on the fact that stretch jeans will always fit right. That's proper scary,” she wrote.

“This certainly has high impact. What a great visual,” someone else said.

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