Did you know that one washing load of clothes could be shedding up to 17 million plastic fibers? Athleisure is a growing clothing trend that mixes casual wear with sportswear. Materials such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic have helped create multifunctional, durable, and practical clothing.
In the past, most clothes containing these synthetic materials were used for athletic activities, but they have made their way into most of the clothing we wear on a daily basis. In fact, most new fabrics are made of plastic - up to 64% of them. These clothes are made up of microfibers which are a type of microplastic that is thinner than a human hair. Washing machines and wastewater treatment plants are not designed to trap the minute plastic fibers that our clothes shed during washing. Therefore,the plastic microfibers plastic microfibers end up in the environment. The fibers are tiny, but these fibers absorb high concentrations of pollutants and toxins before they reach the oceans where sea organisms such as plankton mistake them for food. Then, larger organisms eat the plankton and pass plastic microfibers up the food chain. Toxic plastic fibers have been found in mussels and fish that are destined for the dinner table. They have been found in the air, rivers, soil, drinking water, beer, and table salt. Nobody wants to be eating, drinking, and breathing plastics. So, how can you help reduce the number of plastic microfibers entering the environment?
Here are three tips to help reduce plastic microfiber pollution.
- Pay attention to how you wash your clothes. Use lower water temperature, fill the washing machine, use a slower spin cycle, and wash your clothes in a bag designed to trap microfibers, and air dry rather than tumble dry. Less aggressive washing will reduce the amount of microfibers shedding.
- Keep your clothes longer. Most shedding occurs during the first couple of washes, so save money and avoid buying new synthetic clothes.
- Be an educated shopper. Polyester fleeces are the largest emitter of microfibers. So, consider buying wool instead, and buy high quality clothes that last longer. Invest in products such Patagonia’s Guppyfriend Washing Bag and Cora Ball that capture microplastics in the washer and prevent them from escaping into the water stream.
Committed to Plastic Free July?
Take the Climate Action Collaborative Pledge to get started! Sign the Pledge