Posted by Siddhiwear on 4/13/2022 to
As demand for fast trendy fashion has increased over the years, the use of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon and acrylic has risen dramatically. As these synthetic fabrics have grown in popularity, sadly, so have the marine pollutants. Most of us are aware of the problematic residual garbage that ends up in our oceans and waterways with plastic bags, bottles and straws being the most common debris, up until now. As many of us are trying to clean up our act environmentally, it’s literally the cleaning of our clothes that’s causing even more trouble!! Introducing…..Microplastics. As if ‘regular’ sized plastic wasn’t harmful enough, new research is finding a whole slew of potentially dangerous and life threatening issues with this toxic mini version. So….what are they and why are they bad for the environment?
“Microplastics are small pieces of plastic, often about the same size as a sesame seed, and approximately five mm long. They are the result of plastic pollution, and are present in a variety of products, from synthetic clothing to plastic bottles. As a growing field of study, little is known about their impact, but recent research indicates that their nano size allows for ease of access into water filtration systems, which means they often end up in the ocean. This poses a threat to birds and aquatic life, who often mistake the particles for food. People are already known to breathe in the tiny particles too, and they are easily consumed via food and water. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, plastic microbeads were present in cosmetics and personal hygiene products as far back as 1970, when natural ingredients were being replaced.” (euronews.green)
It’s shocking to think for years many of us have been slathering and scrubbing products on our skin that are this dangerous to our lungs, our waterways and all aquatic life. Often added to cosmetics and makeup, mostly in exfoliating skin care and glittery beauty products, these mini plastics called ‘microbeads’ can usually be found in face wash, body scrubs and even toothpaste!
“Not limited to microbeads in personal care products, the term ‘microplastic’ is not consistently defined but is considered to refer to small, mostly microscopic particles made of a synthetic polymer. They are used in both rinse-off and leave-on products….from sunscreen and shampoos to makeup and deodorants.” (beatthemicrobead.com)
So we can see the textile industry is just one part of the problem. Are there clothes with no microplastics at all? There are natural materials like silk, wool and hemp that are completely plastic free, and yet it’s highly unlikely we would be able to totally eliminate all clothing with synthetic fibres. Especially with synthetic clothing being much cheaper to manufacture, and affordable to buy. Surprisingly, and sadly, over half of all the fabric in our clothing is made from synthetic fibres with Acrylic being the worst offender of all. Other fabrics contributing to our oceans demise, are Nylon, Lycra, Polyester and Vegan Leather many of which are not biodegradable and end up in landfill.
It’s crazy to think that our clothing could wreak such havoc on our water systems. But here’s how.
“Consider the lint you collect in the dryer. That lint is tiny bits of thread from your clothing that have become dislodged and are caught by a mesh screen.
Similarly, synthetic fibres come off in the wash — but they’re so small, and there’s no filter inside the machines to catch them. Instead, these tiny plastic fibres pass through to sewage treatment plants, which often don’t have filters fine enough to catch them. (And if they do, the fibres may end up in another sewage byproduct: fertilizer.) Treated wastewater is then often dumped into rivers or the sea, carrying fibres with it, as a 2011 study found….Plastic fibres have been found in the sediment surrounding beaches, in mangrove groves, and in Arctic Ice — even in products we eat and drink.” (vox.com)
It’s really horrifying to think we’ve got little pieces of plastic floating around in our systems, our bloodstream, our lungs- with some saying we ingest thousands of particles a year. Ugh. No thanks! And even though it’s not just from clothing, it seems that clothing made from plastic is one of the biggest sources of microplastic pollution in the world.
“And most of this pollution comes from doing laundry. In fact, a single load of laundry can release more than 1 million microplastic fibres into the environment through both the wastewater generated by washing machines and the exhaust from dryers.” (globalcitizen.com)
What can we do, if anything, to stop contributing to the mess we’re creating for our precious planet?
Some small steps can slowly over time have a big impact, not foolproof but it’s at least a start.
- Stop using single use plastic bottles and bags. Many countries have already banned single use bags and/or straws but still manufacture them to export to other countries. A step in the right direction but so much more needs to happen from our leaders and lawmakers.
- Purchase and wear natural fibre clothing as much as possible. It’s unrealistic and impractical to only live in pure hemp, organic and wool clothing, however the closer we can get to sustainable fabric the better.
- Change our laundry habits. Ideally washing our clothes by hand and air drying them would help minimize some of the microplastics landing in our waterways but not completely. Plastic clothes still shed plastic parts out into the environment, so changes need to happen there first, at the source. Studies on washing machine filters are being explored and hopefully down the road will be commonplace, as well as laundry bags that filter out fine fibres so they don't end up in our water!
- Take care of the clothes we already have. It’s true as they say “You buy good, You buy once!” Investing in a well made, small batch, local and sustainable wardrobe will have you spending less $ in the long run with longer lasting pieces that won’t quickly end up in landfill.
- Invest in natural skin care and sustainable cosmetics. Many of us are lucky enough to have easy access to chemical free, eco friendly personal care products these days, with numerous choices and availability even in conventional shops. More and more companies are getting on board realizing there are far better alternatives to poisoning our products!
- Reuse, Reduce, Recycle - basic at it’s core but every step counts!
- Walk more, bike more, ride share and take public transit if possible. The less cars on the road, the less pollution and plastic in general especially the microplastics released from car tires and brake systems!
It seems enormous to tackle this problematic plastic situation and yet, we have no choice if we want to live with clean water and air. We have to start where we are…and here we are, with microplastics seemingly everywhere. At Siddhiwear, we’re always working towards more sustainability. Our Oeko-tex certified bamboo fabric isn’t perfect. We still use a tiny bit of spandex so our clothes stretch when you do. As the technology moves forward with even better options for our apparel, we will move along with it so that one day we can hopefully be 100% sustainable. And although Bamboo production isn’t flawless, at it’s source, it truly is a wonder plant. Requiring little irrigation, without chemicals and one of the fastest growing on the planet, it’s a good choice, for now.
Let’s all do our part by making better and better choices, for a world with cleaner air, cleaner water and less and less plastic.