Staying warm during the winter usually means grabbing your polar fleece jacket or a fluffy jumper, however these are the latest culprits in the aquatic micro-plastics disaster.
Aquatic micro-plastics are created from the tiny threads, beads and shreds from our clothing. Only 5mm in length, they make up nearly 94% of the plastic pollution in our oceans. And although majority of these micro-plastics come from bigger items such as fishnets and plastic bags that have broken down overtime, fibres that have leaked from our washing machines is significantly adding to this disaster.
In a recent study done by the University of Victoria, micro-plastics from our clothing being washed is having an enormous impact on our oceans and marine life. The study showed that throughout the washing and drying process, clothing had shed up to 1.5% of their total mass. Comparably, a study from the Plastic Soup Foundation, found that with every 5-kilogram load of washing, between 600,00 and 17 million fibres were released. And although this may not be much in weight, when multiplied by every wash at every household it is equivalent to half a million tonnes of microfibres entering our ocean.
How can we help prevent more microfibres entering our oceans?
No to fast fashion
Synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester are often used in fast fashion clothing items. These tend to stay in our ecosystems a lot longer and struggle to break down. Invest in clothing that is made to last and use natural fibres such as wool and cotton as these will eventually break down and are much less toxic to the planet.
Washing Machine Filter
Although some washing machines have a wastewater treatment system in place, installing a lint trap/filter in your washing machine will significantly reduce the number of microfibers going into our waterways.
The less we wash the less environmental impact we have. Try and only wash clothing items that need to be washed. Additionally, try and ensure each wash is full rather than doing lots of little washes.
Most importantly do what you can! Every little bit helps.