You only have to google ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch‘ to give anyone the chill factor. And while single-use plastic is insanely harmful to the environment, you’ve got to have been living under a rock in a far flung, remote desert not to have heard how your clothes also contributes greatly to plastic in our world. Just how much is quite startling though.
Did you know that 70% of new clothes are made from synthetics? Plastics otherwise known as polyester, nylon and acrylic are all materials derived from petroleum and make up a huge percentage of clothing today. And it’s impact is not only felt during the production cycle. Nope. As soon as that piece of clothing is taken home, used and then washed, the problem is intensified by microfibres.
These synthetic textiles shed tiny plastic fibres during their making, wearing and washing, releasing millions of these tiny fibres (they can be 60-100 times finer than your hair) which escape with the wastewater from washing machines and find their way into local waterways and eventually into our oceans and rivers. From there they have been found to travel up the aquatic food chain, finally ending up on our plate in the form of seemingly delicious seafood.
There’s no getting around it, clothes are the number one source of primary microplastic to the oceans, accounting for 34.8% of the global total [source: Fashion Revolution].
Let’s get real
What can you do as one person? Actually quite a lot. For starters, when it comes to your clothes, try looking at the label. If you’re buying new clothes always try to go for natural over synthetic materials, such as linen and only wash synthetic materials when it’s absolutely necessary. No, it is not gross to air your clothes by hanging them up and only spot cleaning. It’ll ensure they not only last longer but it also means it greatly minimises their environmental footprint. When washing can’t be avoided, use a Guppy Friend or a Cora Ball, which capture microfibres in the washing machine.
Beyond clothes, more than 40% of plastic is single-use, used once and then thrown away, often in the form of food packaging and plastic shopping bags. So, when it comes to doing your shopping, make a point of always carrying a canvas or organic cotton tote bag rolled up in your handbag, as nothing feels better than being prepared and turning down that plastic offer.
Image courtesy: National Geographic
Did you know that plastic is estimated to last in our eco-system from 450 years to forever? FOREVER. A scary fact that feels all the more real when taking in the image above.
Time to take a personal stand, one conscious purchase at a time.