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While terms such as ‘eth­i­cal’ and ‘sus­tain­able’ may be used with gen­uine sen­ti­ment, they are also of­ten bandied around with very lit­tle care.

Take the fol­low­ing de­scrip­tion I came across of fake fur. ‘Eth­i­cal, earth-friendly fake fur made from cru­elty-free sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als’. Sounds good, right? Well, the fake fur in ques­tion is ac­tu­ally made from:

• polyester, a plas­tic fi­bre made us­ing a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in­volv­ing pe­tro­leum, coal, and wa­ter, of­ten in fa­cil­i­ties in­te­grated to oil re­finer­ies

• acrylic, a syn­thetic fi­bre de­vel­oped by Dupont which must con­tain at least 85 per cent of acry­loni­trile, a pos­si­bly car­cino­genic chem­i­cal

• modacrylic, a flame-re­tar­dant syn­thetic fi­bre de­vel­oped orig­i­nally by Union Car­bide, a cor­po­ra­tion best known for the Bhopal dis­as­ter

At the end of its life (which is gen­er­ally much shorter than nat­u­ral fur), fake fur is un­likely to be re­cy­cled (90 per cent of plas­tic isn’t), will not biode­grade, and may shed mi­crofi­bres that will end up in the sea, and in the fish we eat.

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