Ocean Pollution: Downside Of Washing Your Clothes
Making clothes out of recycled plastic seems to be a new trend that is taking the fashion industry by storm.
Big names like G-star Raw, Patagonia and even Timberland are innovating to give plastic trash a new life. Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans to transform plastic debris and fishing nets that cause ocean pollution into a high-performance running shoe using 3D-printing technologies. The repurposing of ocean waste to create this new shoe won Adidas a spot in the Beazley Designs of the Year Awards.
Initiatives like these, whether marketing-driven or genuine, shine a light on plastic pollution. They also champion for increased creativity and innovation within material sourcing in efforts to become more sustainable.
But is there a possibility that repurposed plastic used in the fashion industry will end up back in the ocean?
Microplastics? Never Heard Of Them
These are tiny plastic particles washed off products such as synthetic clothes. Yes, even those made from ocean plastics! A new study on ocean pollution by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that up to 30% of plastic in the world’s oceans could be coming from microplastics. Every year, in fact, we release up to 2.85 million tonnes of microplastics into our waterways. Two-thirds of this is believed to be the direct result of washing synthetic clothing and tire abrasion. A study by the University of California Santa Barbara estimates that a population of 100,000 people release the equivalent of 15,000 plastic bags into local waterways each day from washing their clothes. One synthetic fleece jacket releases an average of 1.7 grams of microfibers per wash!
The report found that in areas with efficient waste management systems, microplastics contribute more to marine pollution than plastic waste. This indicates that plastic ocean pollution is a problem arising from our daily activities.
Microplastics may seem small, but this is a big deal. Consumption of microplastics by marine life can be extremely harmful to the health of marine organisms, if not fatal. And besides the danger to marine life, microplastics carrying bacteria and toxins travel up the food chain, potentially infecting the food we eat.
How To Reduce Ocean Pollution?
Reducing plastic use is a solution to help reduce landfill, but what about the sea? Turning ocean plastics into clothing is not a definite solution to ocean pollution, but it's a good place to start. And where shoppers can’t give up their love for synthetic clothing, more research and development should take place. The aim should be to create stronger synthetic materials that don't leach as much.
Until then, the responsibility is on us. To reduce ocean pollution, limit the amount of synthetic clothing you buy, and when you do buy it, wash less!