Materials used in many shower curtains are not environmentally friendly. Curtains made from some plastics may contain toxic plasticisers. Claims that curtains made from these materials can harm consumers are questionable, but the environmental impact of such chemicals is well documented. Even curtains made from natural fibres may have an undesirable element: conventional cotton growing, for example, uses lots of chemical fertilisers and pesticides which some campaigners claim are environmentally harmful. Be aware, though, there are alternatives.
Hemp makes an effective heavy-duty shower curtain. You can find curtains made from organic hemp, grown without the use of pesticides or fertilisers. Hemp has antifungal properties, so it is naturally resistant to mould and mildew. Because it is slightly absorbent, shower spray is picked up by the hemp fibres rather than running down the inside of the curtain and onto your bathroom floor. The curtain should be left extended to dry.
Organically-grown cotton is touted as having a low environmental impact. Shower curtains made from cotton are lighter than those made from hemp. You can find shower curtains made from cotton canvas that has been treated to make it more water resistant. Cotton shower curtains are available in a wide range of designs and colours. Choose unbleached cotton or cotton bleached with hydrogen peroxide, which breaks down harmlessly into hydrogen and oxygen in the water system.
Linen is another natural fibre that's making a comeback for green furnishings. Linen is made from the fibrous stems of the flax plant, so it's a renewable resource. You can now find shower curtains made from this fabric.
Recycled plastic from various sources can be made into many household items, including shower curtains. You can also find shower curtains made from high-density polythene or HDPE. Unlike conventional PVC shower curtains, which can't be recycled because of the toxins they contain, HDPE can be recycled.
Instead of a shower curtain, consider installing a glass door in your shower. Doors let less water out onto the floor and glass isn't subject to mildew. Doors also don't tear or sag.