Our Tips on How to Reduce Plastic Microparticles in Our Oceans

Our Tips on How to Reduce Plastic Microparticles in Our Oceans

The Micro History of Microparticles

Written by Catherine Blanchet for Rose Buddha

 

 

Photo copyright: Jimmy Vigneux / Mission 100 tonnes

 

When you hear the word polyester, you probably think of your favorite hoodie or a pair of mittens. But these days, from athletic and outdoor gear to even our underwear, just about all of our clothing is made from polyester and other synthetic materials.  

 

Some companies like Rose Buddha make polyester with recycled material such as plastic bottles.

 

Photo copyright: Jimmy Vigneux / Mission 100 tonnes

 

The big problem is that every day, millions of plastic bottles are thrown out, destined to make up an enormous percentage of the plastic that contaminates the ocean and natural world.

 

While the ideal solution would be to stop using plastic completely, in the context of real life, we are looking for ways we can reuse it and give it a new purpose.

 

The micro problem lies in the fact that every time we wash clothing made out of synthetic materials, hundreds of plastic microparticles, known as microfibers, are released. This happens during each load of laundry, as well as at every stage of the products life cycle. Our water treatment plants manage to filter out 65% to 92% of microfibers; however, the remainder seep into our waterways and end up in our lakes, rivers, and of course, our oceans. The older the clothing, the more easily the microfibers detach, and the more plastic microparticles are released.

 

Photo copyright: Wallpaper Flare

 

The result? Once in the ocean, these particles act like little sponges, accumulating all sorts of pollutants from their surrounding environment (engine oil, chemical products, pesticides, etc.). Inevitably, the toxic concoctions seep into the fish we eat, thereby making their way into our stomachs.

 

It is estimated that our oceans presently contain close to 1.4 trillion (1.4 x 1018 or

1 400 000 000 000 000 000) microparticles. This represents an enormous 200 million microparticles per person on this planet. Its unreal.

 

These particles come from all sorts of fabrics or synthetic fibers including nylon, polyester, rayon, acrylic, and spandex. The biggest culprit among textiles is everyones favourite, the good old cozy polar fleece. But dont go burning your most beloved sweaters just yet. 

 

Other Causes

 

Photo copyright: Wikipedia Commons

 

Clothing is not the only source of the microplastic fibers that are infiltrating the oceans. Several other industries are major contributors to the problem. Fishnets and bottle caps, as well as plastic packaging and bags, are also major plastic polluters. 

 

One of the main research priorities for the future lies in quantifying the extent to which the various sources of microplastics contribute to ocean pollution.

 

Research and Science

Photo copyright: Wikipedia Commons

 

Studies have only recently discovered this issue of plastic microfibers in the water. Companies are working hard to reduce their environmental impact. The outdoor gear giant Patagonia has been conducting extensive research on the subject since 2016.

 

Simple Steps for Reducing Your Environmental Impact

 

Photo copyright: Pikist

 

Buy less. Buy better

Higher quality clothing disintegrates less in the wash compared to synthetic, cheaper and more mediocre products. This demonstrates how important it is for manufacturers and consumers to invest in gear that is made to last.

 

Use the stuff you have. One thing we can all do to reduce our personal impact on the planet is to keep our current belongings in use as long as possible. Dont buy more than you need. Choose high-quality items and make them last.

 

Reduce Your Loads of Laundry

The best way to reduce the amount of plastic microfibers in the water is to wash synthetic clothing by hand, and to wash items less frequently.

 

Front-Loading Washing Machines

Invest in a front-loading washing machine. Front-loaders damage clothing less than traditional top-loading models. Studies have shown that when washing the same piece of clothing, top-loaders release over seven times more microfibers than front-loaders.

 

Use a filter bag

Placing your synthetic clothing into a filter bag before a machine or hand wash can reduce up to 86% of the microfibers released into your drain.

These bags protect your clothes, and thereby help them last longer, as fewer fibers break during the washing cycle.

Eco-responsible companies such as Tentree and Patagonia sell this kind of filter bag on their sites: 

Tentree Guppyfriend washing bag

Patagonia’s Guppyfriend washing bag

 

Avoid using the dryer

Hanging your laundry to dry instead of using the dryer decreases damage to your clothes. This may contribute to the reduction of the total microfibers that end up in the water following your next machine wash.

 

Every small action counts. If we all do our part, it is possible to reduce our environmental footprint.

 

To learn more about this subject, check out these articles by Patagonia: 

https://www.patagonia.com/synthetic-microfiber-pollution.html

https://www.patagonia.com/blog/2017/06/what-you-can-do-about-microfiber-pollution/

 

 

Written by Catherine Blanchet for Rose Buddha

Cover photo copyright: Pixnio

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