Reducing Your Impact on Microplastic Pollution
As an eco-conscious business, we often get asked about microplastics ending up in the oceans via the washing machine. Unfortunately, any garment made with plastic of any type (including elastic, buttons or any percentage of nylon or polyester content, including the thread) is going to release small quantities into the water. According to the report ‘Fashion and Microplastic Pollution: Investigating Microplastics From Laundry’. It has been estimated that Australian washing machines deposit up to 62 kilograms of microplastic into our oceans every week; that is equivalent to 7,750 plastic grocery bags.
Microplastics are essentially any fragment of plastic less than 5mm diameter. There are two forms; primary microplastics that are intentionally produced at that size for external human use (such as in cosmetics or abrasives in industrial cleaning), and secondary microplastics that are pieces of larger plastic debris that have broken down. Laundry contributes to secondary microplastics.
While wastewater treatment plants do remove some of the microplastics from household water before they reach the oceans, many of the harmful particles slip through due to their tiny size. Sadly, microplastic pollution quickly makes its way into the oceans and harms marine life at all levels. Fragments of plastic are often mistaken for food by fish and other sea creatures. This significantly impacts on their nutritional intake and can even block their digestive systems. Some minuscule plastics can also make their way through the food chain and bioaccumulation results in significant levels of plastics in larger animals – including humans.
So, how do you reduce microplastics in your environment? At this stage, there is no sure-fire way to eliminate microplastics in your laundry, but you can take steps to minimise your impact on the environment for the sake of clean clothes. One of the most effective ways to date of reducing plastic dispersion into the wastewater is by using a filtering laundry bag, such as this one now available through TnG Apparel. These bags catch stray threads and particles from the clothing, so you can then gather them up (as lint) and dispose of effectively. As a bonus, washing your garments in a laundry bag extends the life and quality of your clothes. The other way to catch microplastics in your home laundry before they reach the treatment plant is with an invention known as the Cora Ball. This clever little device catches plastic fibres in the machine, which tangle together in the ball for easy removal. At this stage, there are limited places to purchase these and it is still quite expensive, but it is a great example of technological innovations that have the potential to make a huge impact.
While you are looking at your laundry habits, you may also like to consider switching to a more natural detergent. Synthetic detergents contribute to waterway pollution, so finding an alternative makes sense. Eco Warehouse has a range of natural laundry detergents, including the effective and popular soapberries. These little fruits are high in saponin, a natural ‘soap’ that reduces the surface tension of water and removes dirt and debris without the need for harsh chemicals.
Other ways to help reduce microplastics in the ocean is to simply cut down the amount of single-use plastics we use. There has been a great deal of publicity around this of late, especially with the major supermarkets removing plastic bags. As a whole, recycling is becoming easier and more widespread, with RedCycle, the recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic. Visit out blog on Plastic Free July for more ideas on reducing your household’s plastic consumption.
While the statistics are alarming and the hype real, step by step we can all make a difference. A few simple changes is all it takes, and together we can create a cleaner world for the next generation.
(TnG Apparel has no financial affiliation with any source mentioned, they are simply suggestions based on our own research).