Out with the Wash
We are all becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact of plastic and so many people and corporations are making considered choices regarding reducing their plastic consumption from reusable drink bottles to bulk groceries and the ban on single use plastic bags. However, there is a plastic derived pollutant that is wreaking havoc with the world's oceans and many of us are unaware of how much we are contributing to the issue.
After the recent few years of lockdowns, we've all spent more than enough time wearing our lycra activewear. It's comfy, no one was coming over, I get it. Most people in fact would wear synthetic fibres like polyester, acrylic, nylon or lycra in some degree daily as more than 60% of the worlds clothing is made from these.
But did you know... each and everytime they are put through a wash cycle, they release tiny plastic particles otherwise known as microfibres into the waste water which flows down the drain as these particles are too small to be captured by standard washing machine filters. They then flow through water treatment plants and end up polluting our oceans, lakes and rivers where they are ingested by marine life and hence ...us.
Differing fabrics will release varying levels of microplastics depending on the wash cycle and frequency, the International Marine Litter Research Unit found that acrylics were the worst by shedding an incredible 730,000 microfibres per wash which is at least 5 times more than a cotton/polyester blend fabric and nearly one and half times more than a polyester.
As micro plastic fibres are so small, it is challenging to capture the attention of everyone as a plastic bag floating in water might. Clothes go into the wash, they come out and we don't notice any changes. And when things aren't in the forefront of your mind it's easy to become complacent and forget about it.
So what can we do?
It would be incredible if washing machine filters where created to factor in capturing these micro plastics, but it would still result in plastic being required to be recycled or managed. Miele are exploring options but there is still no solution available.
So my Top Tips for reducing your own personal microplastic pollution are:
1. Purchase clothing made from natural fibres.
Whilst fabric from natural fibres such as cotton, bamboo and hemp may still shed microfibres, they are biodegradable and when not chemically treated will break down in a natural environment. Our organic linen blankets and cotton baby swaddles are great examples.
2. Wash less often and wash full loads only.
When a washing machine is loaded fully there is less friction created between the fabrics during the wash cycle hence fewer fibres released into the drum.
3. Use a liquid soap or soap flakes.
4. Wash on a cool setting.
Water at a higher temperature can more easily damage some fabrics leading to an increase in fibres being released. Plus it's energy saving!
5. Avoid long wash cycles & spin on low speeds.
Prolonged wash cycles and higher spin revolutions create more friction with fabrics hence an increase in microfibres being released.
And lastly, don't forget about your kitchen. Washing up cloths, sponges and scouring pads will all release plastic microfibres so consider using natural products like our Ecococonut scrubbing brushes and pads and our biodegradable sponges.