Go Au Naturel!
Does plastic-free swimwear even exist? Yes, but it can be tricky to track down so we’ve been on a deep dive (pun intended!) to find the best plastic-free swimwear for everyone, made from natural and organic materials.
Most modern swimwear is made from synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon and is derived from petrochemicals. Even swimwear made from recycled plastic bottles which is becoming more popular is still technically plastic, meaning you’re potentially still shedding a load of itsy bitsy teeny weeny microplastic-fibres into the sea from your bikini… or board shorts. Even just washing synthetic clothing at home is said to be the largest source of microplastics in our oceans, eventually ending up in our food chains and water supply. Scientists have discovered that ingesting microplastics have a harmful effect on human cells.
Where possible, choose natural fibres. Merino wool and hemp actually have high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) which means they naturally protect your skin from the sun.
Images: Natasha Tonic
Natasha Tonic makes beautiful bikinis and swimsuits from organic cotton and hemp using non-toxic dyes which are ethically made in Los Angeles.
Swimm makes bikinis and swimsuits made from super fine Australian merino wool that is Responsible Wool Standards accredited. They also offer free worldwide shipping! Kate (Bottlecup Co-Founder 👋) actually has a Swimm bikini and swimsuit and loves how comfortable they are and quick to dry!
Made in Italy from GOTS certified organic cotton, Isole & Vulcan is a nature-inspired swimwear brand offering plastic-free bikinis and swimsuits as well as plastic-free swimwear for kids too!
Whilst the majority of their swimwear is made from recycled nylon, Luz Collections still has a small selection of swimsuits and bikinis made from organic cotton.
Industry Of All Nations make board shorts as part of their wider collection from 100% organic cotton, including the lining. They are dyed using naturally fermented indigo using a process that is clean for the makers, the environment and our skin.
Mark (Bottlecup Co-Founder) has loved swimming in his plastic-free board shorts from IOAN this Summer.
Vilebrequin have collaborated with The Woolmark Company to create a collection of swimming shorts made with non-mulesed Australian merino wool to enhance performance and reduce environmental impact. However, most of the pieces in this collection are blended with polyester except for this pair which is made from 100% merino wool according to their website.
These multipurpose unisex shorts are made from 100% organic hemp (including the lining) and are cut on the snug side so they don’t hang loose in the water. Designed for running, gym and swimming, they are naturally UV resistant and quick drying.
Whilst their swimwear is made from recycled synthetic materials, we have found this 100% hemp bikini top and bottoms (sold separately) in their clothing range which would work as a perfect plastic-free bikini!
Made in Portugal, Muxima Beachwear makes swimwear, featuring bikinis, swimsuits and kids swim bathing suits made from GOTS certified organic cotton.
Image: Muxima Beachwear
Play Up is a Portuguese babies and kids clothing brand that includes a selection of swimming shorts and bathing suits made from organic cotton. We reached out to check that the lining was also natural and they confirmed that it is all made from organic cotton! They have a strong sustainability ethos and offer a resale and recycle program for any of their products.
Portuguese brand with a lovely collection of retro-inspired kids swimwear made from natural materials such as organic cotton, including swimsuit, bikinis and swim shorts.
Did you know that swim nappies, whether reusable or disposable, are not designed to hold urine? They are designed to only catch solids! Whilst there aren’t any plastic-free reusable nappies on the market as yet, the best option is to choose a reusable one. The Splash About Happy Nappy is a two-part reusable system that has a separate reusable cotton pant to catch any solids with a neoprene outer that keeps everything contained. It is recommended by most swim schools and luckily they are very easy to find second-hand so get browsing!
When it comes to wetsuits, most are made from neoprene which is yes… you guessed it… made from petroleum and isn’t too great for our health for that matter either. Yulex is a neoprene alternative made from purified latex that is starting to be used as a replacement for neoprene. Check out Patagonia, Finisterre and Slo Active for Yulex wetsuits and swimwear. They still all use a synthetic lining but it’s a step in the right direction.
Another option could be to rent a Yulex wetsuit from Finisterre (currently only available in the UK). This option is ideal for infrequent surfers, someone just starting out or a seasoned pro who simply wants to try before you buy. Finisterre have partnered with Zoa, the UK's first integrated fashion rental specialists.
How to Recycle Your Old Synthetic Swimwear
When the time comes to wave goodbye to your old swimwear then make sure it is recycled. Swimwear, wetsuits or outdoor clothing from any brand can be recycled through Alpkit’s Continuum Project. Simply drop it off at their stores or post it free to them.
Swimwear from any brand can also be recycled with Stay Wild who will turn it into other useful products such as eco carpet underlay.
And old goggles and swim hats can be sent off to Sea and Stream for recycling.