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26th Dec 2022

Opinion: Christmas jumpers are fuelling a global eco disaster


They have become a staple of the festive season.

Many of us will rock our Christmas jumpers for much of December, and these days, you can even get matching jumpers for the whole family – pets and all, making them our favourite festive fashion.

However, what happens to these Christmas jumpers once December has come and gone is a less festive story.

Fast fashion is a major, global problem and has been proven to be a major contributor to climate change and wasteful use of natural resources.

The fashion industry makes up almost 10 percent of all global carbon emissions and nearly 20 percent of wastewater, and this really becomes a problem when you realise that close to 60 percent of all discarded clothing ends up in landfills – and that much of these are items that are barely worn.

In fact, according to Oxfam Ireland, us Irish dump 225,000 tonnes of clothing every year, and recent research by environmental charity Hubbub showed that Christmas jumpers were one of the worst examples of fast fashion.

In fact, according to the survey, it turns out two out of five Christmas jumpers are only worn once over the festive period before being discarded. And yet they are still bought in their millions each year.

As well as the wastefulness in general of buying a brand new item of clothing that you are only going to be wearing a couple of time, it turns out there are more issues with our favourite festive fashion statements.

Plastic pollution from Christmas jumpers

According to Hubbub, who sampled 108 Christmas jumpers available from 11 different high street retailers, 95 percent of these were made wholly or partly from plastic materials.

The majority of the jumpers tested were made from acrylic – a popular plastic fibre used frequently in fast fashion.

The problem? A study by Plymouth University found that acrylic was responsible for releasing nearly 730,000 microfibres per wash, five times more than a polyester-cotton blend fabric and nearly 1.5 times as many as pure polyester – meaning it is adding vastly to the plastic pollution of the world’s oceans.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Sarah Divall, project co-ordinator with Hubbub, explained:

We don’t want to stop people dressing up and having a great time at Christmas, but there are so many ways to do this without buying new.”

Divall stresses that fast fashion is a major threat to the environment, and one of the main reasons Christmas jumpers are so problematic is that most of them contain – or are made completely from – plastic.

“We’d urge people to swap, buy second-hand or re-wear and remember a jumper is for life, not just for Christmas.”