We explore the link between laundry and microplastics and look at the steps we can implement to help stop this pollution while protecting our oceans and local waterways for the future generations.
June 24, 2021
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Every time we wash our clothes, hundreds of thousands of tiny microfibres are removed and released into the environment. It is estimated that over 700,000 of these fibres can be produced from one single load of washing which is why it is so important to not over wash garments.
In 2020 alone over 95 million automatic washing machines were sold to consumers according to Euromonitor. This can only mean that the amount of micro-plastics entering our waterways is on the rise.
In this blog post, we will take a look at the definition of micro plastics and explore the link between them and our laundry. We will also examine the steps we can take to help stop this pollution and save the environment.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that appear as microparticles under a telescope. They have been officially defined as plastics that are five millimetres in diameter. The majority of these plastics come from specific synthetic materials that make up our clothes. These particles are shed both during the wash cycle or while drying in the tumble dryer and are extremely harmful to our eco-systems.
While the invention of plastic in 1907 by Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland changed the world forever, like most things in life we have both over consumed and incorrectly disposed of large amounts of this material. As humans we have become overly dependent on both plastic and synthetic materials, whether it is in the clothes we wear, the containers we eat from or the products we use daily. This dependancy and overconsumption needs to change dramatically in order for us to reduce the amount of plastic polluting our oceans.
Change the way you do your laundry
Like our team here at Bon and Berg, why not start by making small positive changes which will eventually have a much larger impact. Simple steps like washing your clothes less, ensuring that you only wash full loads to avoid friction and wash at a lower temperature can reduce the amount of microplastics and microfibres being released during the process. Washing at a lower temperature also demands less energy and keeps clothes in good condition for longer. Long-lasting clothing means less plastic will end up in landfills.
Adding the use of laundry bags for synthetic clothing to help collect microfibres can also have a positive impact. These bags can help stop dangerous fibres and plastics from being released into your machine. Both Guppyfriend and Cora Ball are two popular methods for capturing harmful fibres.
Choose natural materials rather than synthetic
Before making your next purchase, take a look at the make-up of the specific garment. It is always good to try to choose items that are made from natural fibres rather than harmful synthetic ones. Wool, hemp, silk, modal, and linen are excellent alternatives and these materials will have a much longer lifespan. By investing in eco-friendly, long-lasting materials, you can significantly reduce your fashion footprint and stop overconsumption of plastic. Clothes that are made of natural fibres release only natural fibres back into the world. Unlike synthetic materials, these items do not release dangerous microfibres into the water they are being cleaned in.
Stop using the tumble dryer
We all love wearing fresh clothes straight out of the tumble dryer but sometimes being environmentally friendly means making sacrifices like reducing your dryer usage. Your dryer causes your synthetic clothes to release harmful fibres during the drying process which cause pollution. This is why air drying is a much better alternative for both the environment and the lifespan of your clothes.
Tumble drying your clothes not only releases harmful plastics, but also has a rather high energy output with an average cycle using approximately 4 kWH of energy. That is a lot of unnecessary energy use.
The future looks promising
Our environmental impact on the world can feel overwhelming and it can often make us feel as though everything we do has a negative impact. Thankfully, the good news is, making small changes in our daily life, whether it is the materials we wear or the way we wash our clothes can all bring about positive change and be impactful, however small.
Washing machine and textile manufacturers as well as non-governmental organisations are working hard to find new solutions to help stop the release of these harmful fibres and microplastics and prevent them from reaching our waterways. It is also encouraging to hear that the French government recently passed laws that require microplastic filters in all new washing machines by 2025. We look positively forward and are excited to see how these important changes will impact the world around us and help save our oceans from preventable pollution.
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