Spandex is a synthetic fabric that is prized for its elasticity (It can stretch to 5-8 times its normal size). Contrary to popular belief, the term "spandex" is not a brand name, and this term is used to generally refer to polyether-polyurea copolymer fabrics that have been made with a variety of production processes. The terms spandex, Lycra, and elastane are synonymous.
Where it grows / Where it is made
Top countries: China - Pakistan - India - Brazil - USA
Athletic wear, stretch pants, yoga pants, skinny jeans, underwear, bras, socks.
Impact on the environment
Overall, spandex has a negative impact on the environment. This impact is not as pronounced as the negative impact of other types of synthetic fabrics, but it is certainly present, and at this point, no feasible solutions have been suggested to curb the environmental degradation caused by spandex fabric.
If only the production methods used to make spandex are considered, then this fabric does not appear to have a significantly detrimental effect on the environment. Certain synthetic materials, such as nylon, are directly derived from non-renewable resources like coal and petroleum oil, but elastane is made entirely from chemicals that are synthesized in lab settings.
The production of elastane is, therefore, highly energy-intensive, but if renewable energy sources are used to produce the prepolymers that this fabric consists of, this problem can be solved. There's a possibility that the same health issues that workers encounter in the production of polyurethane are encountered in the production of spandex, but no research has been done into this subject.
The notable environmental impact of elastane comes into play only after it is sold to consumers. It has been determined that 60 percent the trash in U.S. waterways is composed of non-biodegradable textile fibers, and spandex garments and fibers make up a large portion of this waste.
More sustainable alternatives
Eco Lycra, Roica eco smart.
End of life possibilities
Spandex is a difficult one because there is no substitute at the moment produced at scale. Try to buy products made of spandex when there is no alternative for your need.