We chatted with Horizon Athletic, a recycled swimwear brand about all things sustainable.
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One small change is all it takes. Whether that’s new legislation, innovative materials, or changing buying habits as a consumer, each can make a positive impact. Several summers ago, I sought out recycled swimwear brands for the first time. These bikinis and bathing suits are made from recycled polyester and nylon instead of virgin materials. Horizon Athletic, one recycled swimwear and athleisurewear brand, partners with companies like Econyl and Carvico that turn plastic waste into fabrics. I was intrigued by the idea of a bikini made from discarded fishing nets, carpets, and other ‘waste’ as a way to reduce the high turnover of plastic waste entering our oceans annually.
So, what does it feel like to wear a recycled swimwear brand? It feels like I can make a positive impact. By not wearing virgin materials and choosing a brand that focuses on using materials we already have, I’m using my dollars to speak about my values. I also loved the minimal plastic-free packaging for products that reduce waste. On a style note, the material was soft and washed well without pilling, even after being worn and loved for three years. I chose the Honolulu Two-Piece in an XXS and felt it fit my frame well. After a few wears and compliments, I honestly didn’t notice a difference at all when compared to other swimsuits made from virgin materials.
All in all, considering that at the industry’s current production rate, plastic waste is expected to triple by 2060 I was happy to spend my dollars on a product I needed that offered a solution against plastic waste.
The Problems With Virgin Plastic
Plastic is brilliantly practical for its durability, ability to repel water, cheap production, and its multitude of uses. It’s no wonder that since the 1950s production has soared to nearly 400 million tons in 2021. Yet, as you’re probably well aware, it has a remarkable set of problems too- its high single-use and slow decomposition rates, ability to break into microplastics, and extraction of fossil fuels. These issues raised an alarm from 175 nations that met in early June 2023 for the Global Plastic Treaty. A May 2023 peer-reviewed report from Greenpeace concluded that there must be an emphasis on “capping and phasing down plastic production”.
“Approximately 46% of the 79 thousand tons of ocean plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of fishing nets.”~Sea Shepherd, an Ocean Conservation Organization
Are Recycled Materials Sustainable?
Polyester is a synthetic plastic-based fabric. Its manufacturing process releases toxic fumes to make a product that while durable is non-biodegradable. That contributes to an estimated 8 million tons of plastic polluting our oceans yearly and killing marine life. Items like fishing nets that were once made from organic biodegradable fibers like flax, cotton, and grass have recently been replaced with plastic-based polyester and nylon. An estimated 30% percent of the decline in some fish populations is a result of discarded fishing equipment, while more than 70% of marine animal entanglements involve abandoned plastic fishing nets. Recovering this plastic waste from our oceans to be regenerated into ‘new’ materials is the sustainable initiative taken by companies like Econyl that aim to provide an alternative to virgin materials while reducing the waste harming our marine life. The benefit of recycled materials is that they can replace virgin plastic-based materials in the production process that consume 80% less energy than their conventional counterpart.
It should be noted that solutions are not black and white. Even if they’re recycled, plastic-based materials still break into microplastics. They aren’t biodegradable and will eventually contribute to landfill waste. That’s why it’s still always a good idea to practice that old mantra, “buy less and buy better” as well. Being sustainable isn’t about being perfect. It’s about making the best possible choice.
To learn more about recycled swimwear, read the interview with Horizon Athletic which uses recycled materials in its swim and activewear.
Can you tell me about Horizon Athletic’s sustainable journey?
We have been sustainable since we began and we partnered with Carvico who source Econyl fabric not just because it is a sustainable fabric but a fabric that has many qualities such as – UV+ sun protection, muscle retention, flatter technology with great coverage and chlorine, and salt water resistant.
How many seasons of wear will I get out my Econyl swimsuit?
I have had swimsuits since the brand began that I still wear. I would say 3 years the pieces should be in great quality if they have been following the correct care instructions.
What are Horizon Athletic’s sustainable goals?
We are looking to branch out into other sources of sustainable fabrics in order to widen our collections from not just swim and crop tops and leggings but also windbreakers, jumpers, and sweatpants so the brand can be worn all year round.
How do you communicate with consumers about your sustainable initiatives?
When developing a collection we don’t just look for sustainable fabrics but sustainable fabrics with great technical benefits so our consumers can make the most of the garments. We don’t overproduce our collections, as we keep them to a certain minimum which means what we source ends up being used which results in minimal wastage. We make the most of our resources because we have a great relationship with a production team and this gives us the opportunity to do so. Our garments are made of high quality which always last longer and not be disposed of after a season’s wear.
All your products are made in Australia. Do you have photos and information that you can share about the factories?
Yes, all our garments are ethically made in Australia where we have great quality control over our production and this leaves minimal chances of any errors that cost wastage.
Do you have plans to expand your sizes?
Yes we are currently working on widening our sizes to broaden our reach and allow more consumers to engage in our sustainable garments.