Did you know that every time you use your washing machine, thousands of microplastic fibres too small to be caught by its filters flow into the sewage system and eventually into the ocean?
Or that these tiny particles, shed from synthetic clothes when laundered, are readily ingested by aquatic life, filling up their stomachs which can eventually lead to death?
With fish, crab, shrimp and birds all having been recorded as ingesting microfibres, it’s also known that they’re ending up in the food we eat, although the long-term effects of this are yet to be made clear…
According to the End Plastic Soup campaign action pack published by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, over 36 billion loads of clothes are washed across Europe every year. And, depending on the type of fabric those clothes are made from, the numbers of microplastic fibres released from a single load of washing are nothing short of mind-boggling :
- 137,951 fibres released from polyester-cotton blend
- 496,030 fibres released from polyester fabric
- 728,789 fibres released from acrylic fabric
The End Plastic Soup campaign isn’t asking for synthetic clothing to be banned but calls on the government and industry to research and develop innovative solutions to the problem. It also offers a list of simple ways in which everyone can help make a difference by taking action at home, based on the EU Mermaids Ocean Clean Wash research project…
- Wash less: Only wash clothes when they need it. Items that are not worn close to the skin often do not need washing after just one wear – this will also prolong the life of your clothes.
- Fill up your washing machine to the max: Washing a full load results in less friction between the clothes and so less fibres are released.
- Use liquid detergent rather than powder: The ‘scrub’ action of the powder grains loosens fibres more than liquid.
- Wash at low temperature; When clothes are washed at high temperature some fabrics are damaged, resulting in the release of fibres.
- Cleaning the dryer: Do not flush the lint down the drain, throw it in the bin.
- Avoid long washing cycles: Long periods of washing cause more friction between fabrics, which can result in more tearing of the fibres
- Detergent: Avoid using detergents with a high pH level and oxidising agents
Find out more about the scale of ocean plastic waste and how it’s entering the food chain in this Sky documentary…