Your Clothes Release Microplastics in the Wash—Here’s How to Prevent It
We’re big fans of sustainable fashion—using recycled materials and shopping at secondhand shops are great ways to reduce waste—but unfortunately it doesn’t do much for the ocean. According to one study, 65 percent of fibers used in the United States for clothing are synthetic materials, and they all release microplastics.
Microplastics are not a specific kind of plastic but rather any type of plastic fragment that is less than 5 mm in length, and they’re found everywhere. Alarmingly, a recent study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shows that most of the microplastics in the ocean come from textiles, and these can be released from the clothing we throw in the laundry machine. During the washing cycle, these tiny plastic microfibers break down into small pieces and become nearly invisible, making it hard to manually pick them out and sort. This is a big problem since our current sewage treatment plants can’t effectively filter all of these microfibers out, so these tiny plastics find their way into our rivers and oceans.
When it comes down to it, it’s really hard to get rid of microplastics. Every time you step into the ocean your swimsuit releases microplastics, and every time you throw your clothing into the laundry machine it releases microplastics, too. Once these degrade in the ocean, aquatic animals can then consume them. This can result in gastrointestinal infections and blockages, reproductive problems, and starvation problems that ultimately work their way up the food chain—including the human food chain.
Because of all these reasons, Guppyfriend, an environmentally conscious company against microplastics, created the Guppyfriend Washing Bag, which catches plastic microfibers that would have otherwise been washed away during a laundry cycle.
Shop it! $34.95, rei.com
While you can’t control that your clothing releases microplastics, you can reduce the amount of microplastics released in the washing machine. This laundry bag (which is 29.1 by 19.7 inches) was designed to reduce the amount of friction that clothing creates during the washing cycle, therefore resulting in less fiber loss. The catch-all bag will then collect those lost fibers to keep them from entering our waterways, and you can simply throw them in the trash.
A little effort can make a big difference. According to Guppyfriend, a city with 100,000 citizens releases a wash-related volume of microfibers equivalent to 15,000 plastic bags every single day—but you can be a part of the change.