Acrylic fibers were first synthesized in the mid-twentieth century as an affordable alternative to costly natural fibers such as wool, silk, and cotton. Additionally, yarn made of acrylic fiber is much more durable than natural fiber yarns—it can be machine-washed, is resistant to shrinking, and is allergen-free. The affordability and durability of acrylic yarn has made hobbies or careers such as knitting and crocheting much more accessible. One popular brand of acrylic yarn is the Value™ Yarn from Craft Smart, which is a brand exclusive to the craft store Michael’s. Despite the convenience of acrylic yarn, Craft Smart and Michael’s are severely slacking in terms of sustainability. Massive changes need to be made to the brand and the corporation in face of the current climate crisis. Overall, the Michael’s corporation is wildly unsustainable as shown through their general management practices and their complete lack of transparency (or even deliberate withholding) of product composition and manufacturing.
Value™ Yarn from Craft Smart is made of 100% acrylic fibers. The dominant chemical that composes acrylic yarn is acrylonitrile, which is produced from reactions including natural gas and petroleum products. This leads acrylic fibers to have a massive carbon footprint and contributes greatly to air pollution. Furthermore, acrylic fibers come with health concerns as well. Some subcomponents of acrylic fibers, such as vinyl acetate and methyl acrylate, are known carcinogens. On the Value™ Yarn packaging, however, none of these possible subcomponents are listed—only “100% acrylic.” Additionally, the Value™ Yarn comes in a variety of colors—but there is no information on the types of dyes used for each color. Beyond the manufacturing process, acrylic yarn still continues to have a negative environmental impact. Each time acrylic yarn is washed in a standard washing machine, approximately 730,000 pieces of microplastics are washed away with the water. Additionally, this yarn is not biodegradable, so after being thrown away, it will simply sit in a landfill.
The only other component of this product besides the yarn itself is the paper wrapping around the yarn. This paper has a plastic-like or wax-coat feeling, and there is no information on what type of paper this is or whether it’s recyclable. To err on the side of caution, a sustainability-minded consumer might just throw it away in the regular trash instead of risking contaminating a batch of actually recyclable paper. Michael’s and Craft Smart should, at the bare minimum, disclose more information on the ingredients in their product, such as the actual chemical makeup of the yarn, the dyes used, and the type of paper used in the packaging. In my opinion, however, Michael’s should invest much more time and effort into greening their products. This could include investing in research and development of equally durable but more sustainable alternatives to acrylic or switching to fully recyclable packaging.
The only information provided about Value™ Yarn’s manufacturing process is that it is made in Turkey. There is no information about which manufacturers are used or worker rights. Overall, there is absolutely no traceability. Furthermore, because all Michael’s stores are located in the United States and in Canada, there is a huge carbon footprint associated with transporting all of that product. The lack of traceability and transparency from Michael’s is highly concerning and suspicious. In my opinion, they should be much more transparent about where they are sourcing their raw materials, who is manufacturing their products, and how those workers are being treated.
The Craft Smart brand that makes Value™ Yarn falls under the Michael’s corporation. The only mention of sustainability at all within the company’s website is in their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG Report), which is only available through their investor’s website. Even in the ESG, they barely address sustainability. In fact, all the ESG does in this case is show how little they actually care about the environment. The bulk of their environmental statement is dedicated to how they’re encouraging their consumers to recycle, which functionally shifts the blame away from themselves and onto the individual consumers. They also briefly mention how in some (not even all!) of their stores, they’ve switched out regular light bulbs for more-sustainability LEDs. One other change that they claim was sustainability-motivated was monitoring the electricity use in each store. However, this seems to me to be more cost-motivated than anything. Finally, Michael’s claims that they recycle 45.6% of total waste and the “majority” of hazardous waste. With the current dire state of the climate crisis, I think that recycling is the bare minimum. It is also heavily suspicious that they only state that the “majority” of toxic waste is recycled. Why is there no specific number? Where is the rest of it going?
Overall, there are major issues concerning sustainability within the Craft Smart brand and Michael’s in general. There is absolutely no traceability or transparency about the production or manufacturing of Value™ Yarn, and it seems like Michael’s may be deliberately hiding this information. By looking at the Michael’s website and seeing not a single mention of sustainability besides the ESG report, it’s evident that Michael’s has no commitment at all to sustainability or helping the environment. To them, profit is more important than the health of their customers and the planet. I would strongly recommend Michael’s to massively overhaul their mindset on sustainability. They need to recognize that the climate crisis is a real and present danger and that sustainability isn’t just a fad—it’s a necessity. They need to incorporate much more transparency about the materials in and the production of their products. They need to make an actual commitment to sustainability effort.
Product Link: https://www.michaels.com/craft-smart-value-yarn/M20001786.html?r=g&cm_mmc=PLASearch-_-google-_-MICH_Shopping_US_N_Knitting+%26+Crochet_N_Smart_BOPIS_N-_-&Kenshoo_ida=&kpid=go_cmp-9982987191_adg-102401875802_ad-433378147608_pla-1006295893419_dev-c_ext-_prd-M20001786&gclid=CjwKCAjwoNuGBhA8EiwAFxomAxTrZgz2n2iZZORxDuE2Xt8GUPboxJiWCSefGcDhwQkewbUKGo8xNRoCqk8QAvD_BwE#jmp-ca-pdp-shipping-returns