One third of the microplastics pollution in our oceans comes from clothes. Yes 34.8 % are from what we wear. Often we only think about single use plastics as straws and bags, plastic bottles and packaging but our clothes are a huge polluter.
Clothes are the biggest primary and secondary polluter of our seas. Most of them come from microfibers from our clothes. Microplastics come from synthetic fibres which are adding up to the floating plastics, which are eaten by fish and finally by humans.
Polyester creates Microplastics
What is polyester? Polyester is a synthetic fibre which can be spun like natural fibres. Made of petroleum this fibre quickly became one of the most used fibres in the textile industry. The reasons are easy: it is cheap, light and can be coloured endlessly.
The material is breathable and often used for fleece jackets or sweaters as well as for sport clothes. Developed in the 1930s the material was further developed since and can be found in pure form or mixed with other fibres in many clothes.
Plastic bottles, so called PET are Polyester as well (Ethylene polyester). And from recycled bottles further polyester can be spun. But all of them harm the environment and recycling is limited. Further they will never biodegrade but stay on the planet and break into thousands little pieces. The promise to use plastic bottles to make clothes is further a misleading one and it gives the impression of “clean recycling”. People will consume more and more as they feel there is nothing bad with it. The correct message must be to reduce plastic as much as possible!
The same counts for acrylic or nylon of course. All man-made fibres of plastic emit microplastics in the oceans.
Each time we wash a fleece jacket, two grams of microplastics are emitted. These tiny particles are going through the water filters directly into the oceans.
If you eat fish you eat plastics. But just becoming vegan is not the possibility. You might not eat the plastics anymore but the animals still do. This is where we need to start.
There is a great movie which perfectly explains the problem. You can watch it here.
Further most Polyester is made in Asia and always has a huge environmental footprint in terms of transport.
So what to do against microplastics from clothes?
If you can, buy less products made from polyester, acrylic and nylon. Buy natural and sustainable fibres instead which can bio compose.
But pay attention: As soon as two fibres are mixed the negative effect will overweight: For example a cotton-polyester mix will still emit microplastics even though mixed with cotton.
What about the sports clothes you already have? What about the fleece sweater in your wardrobe? Wash them less often and if you have to, wash a full load machine. This will create less friction between the clothes and less microfibers emission.
Use liquid detergent as this as well created less friction and will assure lower emission.
Dry spin with low turns- same rule: less friction = less microplastics.
Your washing machine might have good filters, but as standard change from one country to another and we are not yet at a standard system which really protects microfibers to go through the system we recommend you to get a “Guppyfriend”.
Guppyfriend is a washing net which protects from microplastics floating through. Made of Polyamide 6.6 which is also used in medical usage the net is made in special spun high-tech fibres. Like this the bag will not emit any micro particles itself and keep all emitted microplastics inside. To assure they will not end in the ocean you clean the bag by hand.
The German company ships worldwide and you might find the products at some retailers. But pay attention to buy the branded product. There are others offering “similar” products for little money. These are fake products as Guppyfriend hold the patent for their invention. Do not buy a plastic net from another supplier which finally emits even more microplastics.
Talk about it
Many people do not know where microplastics really come from and that clothes emit such high number. Talk about this topic with friends and family and spread awareness. Further you can sign a petition which wants more strict laws for the producing textile industry. Sign the petition here.
So once again the fashion industry is part of the problem. To get solutions to find new ways and to produce more sustainable, you need to start. If you buy less Polyester, if you reduce plastic water bottles and if you ask the brands more questions, we will all together move towards change.
It starts with all of us- step by step we can make some change!