Please Stop Doing This #3

Please Stop Doing This #3

By Shilora Jean

I see a lot of stuff–good and bad–in doing events. Weddings are undoubtedly where most of the madness occurs, and this one is an unexpected result of buying linens, which of course is driven by the overwhelming desire to save money. It’s very troubling and yet I’m seeing it more and more:

Throwing Linens in the Trash

This is an utterly terrible idea that makes me cringe for one simple reason:

It takes up to 200 years for Polyester to biodegrade.

Most table linens (certainly those bought online) are made of polyester. Poly is a man-made textile, derived from plastic polymers that do not exist in nature. Research on composting and disintegration of natural and synthetic fibers has proven that in a composting pile, polyester remains intact long after natural fibers like cotton, linen, bamboo or silk have decomposed. Poly starts to biodegrade at 20 years and remains in a state of decay for up to 200 years.

In short, the linens you throw into the landfill today may outlive your kids and your grandkids.

So why are brides throwing linens away?

No Hassle
The days of “I’ll resell my linens after the wedding” are on the decline. The word is out that washing up and reselling linens is a huge hassle. Those who fell into the resale trap have dropped their prices ($2 or $4 each) just so they can reclaim their spare bedroom.

Many times, when I ask for laundry bags to put the linens in, I’m told “Oh just throw them in the trash. They only cost me $4 each. For that price I don’t mind throwing them away!”

Low Price + No Hassle = 200 years in a landfill

So why do we use poly for tablecloths?

Polyester is used for tablecloths due to the fact that it’s easier to clean, holds up over repeated washing, and can tolerate repeated exposure to the agents that break down oils (salad dressing), animal fats (butter, aus jus), and organic stains (tomato sauce, chocolate, wine, etc). In the dryer, it’s more resistant to wrinkles than natural fabrics. It can also be made flame retardant, which is a requirement for the hospitality industry in some states. It’s also cheap to make compared to fabric made from natural fibers.

The factor no one expected

When the hospitality industry began using poly tablecloths instead of cotton or linen, there was a method for cleaning and storing the items for repeated use. The idea was to have something that would last for years. 

With the evolution of the internet and its ability to sell to anyone, the overseas retail community pounced on the wedding industry with “why rent when you can buy cheap stuff from us?”. Thus, a new market was born as ladies fell prey to the idea that they should own their event linens. This easy sell has now morphed into a potential ecological disaster as many have learned that cleaning table linens is a big ol’ pain the rear.

My Request

Please help me stem the tide of polyester being thrown into landfills. Just stop doing it. You’re totally in control here. You’re the only one that can make the change. You may decide to only do business with a venue that provides basic linens. You may love that barn or historic home (linens not provided) so you choose to rent. Or, you may be on a really tight budget and decide that $2 per used linen is worth the piles of laundry you’ll do after your big day. All I ask is that you please do all you can to recycle or reuse.

Remember: we’re only borrowing the Earth. It belongs to our grandchildren.


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