Almost nine million tons of visible plastic trash enter oceans each year, then there’s the waste we can’t see.
Plastic has become a huge part of our everyday lives. Being such a cheap, durable and versatile material, it has changed the way we travel, eat, clean and even dress. Even though most of us are aware of the consequences of using plastic bags, bottles and straws. Microplastics are a much bigger problem.
The world is slowly starting to wake up to the global problem of plastic waste and in particular microplastics, are a huge concern.
Microplastics are plastic particles of less than 1mm in diameter. These are accumulating in marine habitats around the world, representing a new type of environmental and health threat.
Planet or Plastic?
Over a third (35%) of these microplastics released into the world's oceans are from synthetic textiles. These microfibers are mostly coming from our clothes.
Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers, all of which are forms of plastic are now about 60 percent of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide.
Image credit earth.com
How much plastic is your washing machine sending out to sea?
Greenpeace estimates that one piece of clothing can release around 700,000 fibers in a single wash.
Think of the lint you collect in the dryer. All of those tiny bits of thread from your clothing that have become separated and are caught by a mesh screen.
Similarly, the same thing happens to synthetic fibers coming off in the wash but because they are so tiny and in most washing machines there isn’t a filter inside to catch them. Instead, these tiny plastic fibers pass through to the water treatment centres and then onto the ocean.
Image credit - Caroline Power
Research has shown that we ingest thousands of particles of microplastic every week. On top of that, wildlife and sea creatures are dying from consuming tiny plastic particles thinking they are food
It’s not clear exactly how much microplastic pollution comes from fashion, but sportswear and polyester-fuelled fast fashion are some key contributors.
How can we stop micro waste?
Image Credit - Ciceco
It’s unlikely that we will ever be able to eradicate synthetic fibers altogether. The sheer volume of clothing that we produce simply can’t be manufactured using only cotton and other natural fibers. And while research and development is providing more solutions; like more efficient filters for washing machines, we have a long way to go before we solve the problem.
And no, we don’t mean misleading people about sustainability. You can literally wash in a more eco friendly way to prevent as many fibres entering the ecosystem.
We also need to radically rethink the way we design, manufacture, and use our clothing. Clothes should be produced without polluting the environment. They should be designed with durability in mind, so that they can be recycled only after many years of use. As consumers we have a big part to play in the prevention of micro-waste entering the oceans. We simply must start to be more conscious. Here are some of the ways you can help reduce microfibre pollution.
Washing fabric less automatically means less fibres falling from the garment and less micro pollution into the ocean, whilst gentle hand washing in cold water also creates less microfibres to fall during the washing process.
Polyester and other synthetic fabrics are cheap and versatile materials that fast fashion brands love to use to keep prices to a minimum. Sportswear brands also use them a lot because they provide a certain stretchability for athleisure. So steering clear of these large fast fashion brands and consciously opting to buy quality staple pieces from brands like Hide The Label means that your purchases will last longer, and are likely to be made from more sustainable fabrics meaning less long term textile waste.