Today on NPR I heard this story that reinforced why I love natural fibers so. Our clothes are a large part of the problem with ocean micro plastics. Polyester, Nylon, and Viscose microfibers are washing off in the washing machine and getting discharged into the environment. There are estimates that range from a few thousand to a few million pieces of microfiber get lost each load (depending on the garment).
Micro plastics are being found in the bellies of baby fish, zooplankton, shellfish, crabs and other species
The answer seems pretty clear to me, we need to begin choosing to wear natural fibers over synthetic whenever possible.
But the problem is more nuanced if you choose to keep synthetic fibers in your closet. As Peter Ross says in the interview, “if you pick polyester, some polyester textiles shed a great deal and others do not. So there's a question of material, but there's also question of design. For example, we know that polyester fleece sweaters can shed millions of fibers in a single load of laundry whereas some performance gear that is tightly woven, but it's equally made up of 100 percent polyester, might not shed much at all.”
While this is a very informative interview, I disagree with Peter Ross a little bit and with what he says at the end about not demonizing plastic. I think we have to do much more than get rid of the low hanging fruit. There are so many alternatives to plastics - compostable cartons, bioplastics, etc. - I see no reason to continue to use plastics in most cases. We know the impact it is having, why continue to make it?
But we can all play a role in reducing the amount of micro plastics in the world.
3 Easy ways to help:
Be Informed: Check the tab of your clothes before buying. Not just for where it was made, but what it’s composed of. Common synthetic fibers are nylon, acrylic, polyester, and modacrylic.
Wash your clothes less: On each Flowy tag, I put this clevercare link. There are tips here on how to care for clothes so that you don’t need to wash them as much. This will save water, energy, and reduce the number of micro fibers we are washing down the drain.
Use a washing bag: If you have cherished polar fleeces or other clothes that contain synthetic fibers, don't rush to throw them out! Simply get one of these wash bags that catches a majority of the fibers in the wash. Or check out this non-toxic Laundry Bundle from Earth Hero which contains a micro fiber catching laundry ball.