Fight against plastic pollution targets a hidden source: Our clothes
5 May 2019. The plastic bottles, straws and grocery bags that wash ashore on beaches are some of the most visible signs that society’s intoxication with plastic is taking a toll on the environment. But scientists say there is another source of plastic pollution that is just as pervasive and even more difficult to clean up — and it’s hiding in our clothes.
Most clothing contains synthetic fabrics such as polyester or nylon that are essentially constructed from thin plastic fibers. These fabrics have become fixtures in closets around the world because they are durable and cheap to make. Stretchy, sweat-wicking workout clothes, water-resistant rainwear and fleece sweaters are all made of synthetics — not to mention many T-shirts, dresses and jeans that contain a cotton-synthetic blend.
The contribution of washing processes of synthetic clothes to microplastic pollution
29 April 2019. Microplastic pollution caused by washing processes of synthetic textiles has recently been assessed as the main source of primary microplastics in the oceans. Therefore, understanding the effective contribution of the washing process of synthetic clothes to this environmental problem, is of great importance.
In this study, wash trials at real scale were performed on commercial clothes by using a household washing machine in order to gain reliable data about the release of microplastics, and to identify possible influences of textile characteristics on the release. The wastewater was collected and filtered through subsequent filters with decreasing porosity, and the amount and dimensions of microfibres were determined. Microfibre release was analysed in relation to the nature and characteristics of the washed clothes…
Read the entire study here.
Sea Anemones Ingest Plastic Microfibers
24 April 2019. Tiny fragments of plastic in the ocean are consumed by sea anemones along with their food, and bleached anemones retain these microfibers longer than healthy ones, according to new research from Carnegie’s Manoela Romanó de Orte, Sophie Clowez, and Ken Caldeira.
Their work, published by Environmental Pollution, is the first-ever investigation of the interactions between plastic microfibers and sea anemones. Anemones are closely related to corals and can help scientists understand how coral reef ecosystems are affected by the millions of tons of plastic contaminating the world’s oceans.
Read more here.
Even remote mountain glaciers are contaminated with microplastics
12 April 2019. Microplastics have been found in a mountain glacier for the first time, in the latest sign of how plastics are leaving no corner of the planet untouched.
The tiny pieces, which measure less than 5 millimetres in length, have shown up in places as remote as Arctic ice before. But now Roberto Sergio Azzoni at the University of Milan and colleagues have found them on a terrestrial glacier.
Read the article here.
Buying new clothes? Here are 3 easy ways to shop more sustainably
18 March 2019. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, and it’s helping accelerate climate change. Part of the problem is our culture of overconsumption: We buy way more outfits than we need, and we let them hang in closets for years, wearing them once or twice, before throwing them out. The solution is obvious: We need to stop wearing clothes. Okay, I realize that nudity may not work for everyone. It could get cold, and also, it could get awkward.
The good news is that some fashion brands are trying to improve parts of their business to become more sustainable.
Read more here.
Fashion’s tiny hidden secret
13 March 2019. Fashion today is about obsession with outward image and appearance. Rarely do we as consumers consider what’s on the inside: the hundreds of thousands of fibres that make up our clothing which have led to an estimated 1.4 million trillion plastic fibres in the ocean.
The fashion industry itself has a huge impact on the environment. It is responsible for 20 per cent of global wastewater, 10 per cent of carbon emissions and huge amounts of waste. Every second, one garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or incinerated. If that wasn’t enough, our clothing is also polluting the ocean with plastic.
Read more here.
Microplastics are most common waste found along Mediterranean coast, study says
3 March 2019. Microplastics from shopping bags and clingfilm are the most common type of waste found in Mediterranean coastal waters, research shows. Polyethylene makes up over half the plastic (54.5 per cent) found along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, according to a study by the Research Group on Marine Geosciences at the University of Barcelona.
This type of plastic is most commonly used to make plastic shopping bags and clingfilm. Polypropylene (16.5 per cent) – used in rigid plastic packaging such as bottles – was the second-most common plastic found, followed by polyester (9.7 per cent) which is used in clothing, furnishings and textiles.
Read more here.
World’s deepest waters becoming ‘ultimate sink’ for plastic waste
22 February 2019. The world’s deepest ocean trenches are becoming “the ultimate sink” for plastic waste, according to a study that reveals contamination of animals even in these dark, remote regions of the planet.
For the first time, scientists found microplastic ingestion by organisms in the Mariana trench and five other areas with a depth of more than 6,000 metres, prompting them to conclude “it is highly likely there are no marine ecosystems left that are not impacted by plastic pollution”.
Read more here.
Is your dirty laundry making dirty mollusks? Traces of microplastics offer clues
6 February 2019. Researchers in Sitka have been looking at the impact of microplastics on local shellfish. Their findings illustrate a possible connection between microplastics in butter clams and household laundry.
Read more here.
Breaking News: Adidas, Nike, H&M and Zara products tested on microfiber loss during washing
Munich, 4th February 2019 – In the last year, the Institute for Polymers, Composites and Biomaterials of the Italian National Research Council (IPCB-CNR) and the Netherlands-based Plastic Soup Foundation tested synthetic clothes from four global fashion brands. The results were presented during the trade fair ISPO in Munich on Monday, February 4th from 4pm to 5pm, at the Press Center West.
Read the press release here.
Textile microfibres from washing machines accumulating in ocean floors
21 November 2018. Tiny, extremely fine fibres, that come from wastewaters of washing machines, are accumulating on sea floors and may adversely affect marine life, a study warns. Researchers from University of Barcelona in Spain and University of Plymouth in the UK analysed the amount of coloured fibres — which vary between 3 to 8 millimetres (mm) and are extremely fine, with less than a 0.1 mm diameter — in south European marine floors, from the Cantabrian Sea to the Black Sea.
Read more here.
Study: We Ingest More Plastic From Our Clothing Than Seafood, Salt or Bottled Water
2 November 2018. Recent studies reveal we ingest up to 70 pieces of microplastic for each serving of mussels, 150 pieces of per bottle of water, and 660 pieces per year in our salt. But the latest study suggests we may be ingesting more microplastic from our clothing than anywhere else.
We ingest between 13,000 and 68,000plastic microfibers from our clothing, carpets, curtains and other textiles per year, researchers from Heriot Watt University in the United Kingdom found. That’s because the majority of our clothing (and decor) these days is made out of plastic — whether polyester, acrylic, nylon, lycra or spandex.
Read more here.
Is my washing to blame for the plastic problem?
7 October 2018. Did you know that every time you do your washing you could be contributing to the world’s plastic problem?
Take a look at your clothes labels. If they contain some sort of man-made fibres then studies show your clothes wash could be threatening the world’s seas.
But there are ways of reducing the damage. Read more at BBC.com
MPs to grill high street retailers about fashion industry waste
6 October 2018. MPs have summoned bosses at 10 leading UK clothing retailers to come clean about their environmental record as part of an investigation of “fast fashion”.
The inquiry into sustainability by the Westminster Environmental Audit Committee was prompted by concerns at the role the industry plays in the leaching of synthetic fibres and microplastics into oceans and waterways.
Read more at The Herald.
Fast fashion is harming the planet, MPs say
5 October 2018. Young people’s love of fast fashion is coming under the scrutiny of Britain’s law-makers. MPs say the fashion industry is a major source of the greenhouse gases that are overheating the planet. Discarded clothes are also piling up in landfill sites and fibre fragments are flowing into the sea when clothes are washed. The retailers admit more needs to be done, but say they are already working to reduce the impact of their products.
Read more at BBC.com
Redirecting the campaign: Closing the loop on microfiber pollution
Ocean Clean Wash is redirecting its campaign in order to close the loop of microfiber pollution from synthetic clothes: we are tackling each step of the value chain and looking for solutions. We expect a reduction of 80% of synthetic microfiber release in the coming years.
Read the full statement here.
Plastic Soup: Keep microplastic fibres out of our oceans
Microplastic fibres are shed from synthetic clothing with every wash and are the main contributors to microplastic combination of the oceans. The NFWI calls on Government and industry to research and develop innovative solutions to this problem in order to stop the accumulation of microplastic fibres in our oceans.
Read the full resolution shortlist briefing notes here.
What’s in Your Laundry?
[…] With that in mind, he and his team simulated the laundering process to uncover what happens to the microfibers of cotton, polyester, rayon and blends in the wash and to what extent the microparticles remain in treated wastewater.
Analyzing biosolids from the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant, the team found cotton to be the most biocompatible—that is, the most environmentally friendly—when compared with rayon, polyester and blended fabrics. Although cotton releases more microfibers during a wash cycle, those particles degrade the most in the wastewater treatment process.
On the other hand, polyester loses the least in the laundering process, but what it does lose doesn’t degrade well in the environment. Eight months into the study, microfibers of polyester had only degraded 6% and appeared to stop degrading while cotton had undergone 74% degradation and was continuing to degrade. Rayon products and blends fell in between. […]
Read more about these results here.
Synthetic microfibers in the marine environment: A review on their
occurrence in seawater and sediments
The objective of this review is to summarize information on microfibers in seawater and sediments from available scientific information.
Microfibers were found in all reviewed documents. An heterogeneous approach is observed, with regard to sampling methodologies and units. Microfibers in sediments range from 1.4 to 40 items per 50 mL or 13.15 to 39.48 items per 250 g dry weight. In the case of water, microfibers values ranges from 0 to 450 items·m−3 or from 503 to 459,681 items·km−2. Blue is the most common color in seawater and sediments, followed by transparent and black in the case of seawater, and black and colorful in sediments.
Related with polymer type, polypropylene is the most common in water and sediments, followed by polyethylene in water and polyester in water and sediments. Some polymers were described only in water samples: high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene and cellophane, whilst only rayon was reported in sediments.
Read the scientific paper published in Marine Pollution Bulletin here.
Marine environment microfiber contamination: Global patterns and the diversity of microparticle origins
Microplastic and microfiber pollution has been documented in all major ocean basins. Microfibers are one of the most common microparticle pollutants along shorelines. Over 9 million tons of fibers are produced annually; 60% are synthetic and ∼25% are non-synthetic. Non-synthetic and semi-synthetic microfibers are infrequently documented and not typically included in marine environment impact analyses, resulting in underestimation of a potentially pervasive and harmful pollutant. We present the most extensive worldwide microparticle distribution dataset using 1-liter grab samples (n = 1393).
These results confirm an alarming trend in recent microparticle data: more areas are showing higher particle densities, especially those far from pollution sources, implying a long residency time of both synthetic and non-synthetic materials. Samples came from understudied ocean regions, some of which are emerging as areas of concentrated floating plastic and anthropogenic debris, influenced by distant waste mismanagement and/or airborne particles.
Read the scientific paper published in Environmental Pollution here.
Microfibers are in the food web in three Lake Michigan rivers
As you dine on locally-caught fish, you probably aren’t thinking of that old acrylic sweater or fleece jacket that you wear and wash frequently. But it turns out that they may be on your plate. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant-funded researchers have found microplastic fibers that come from clothing and other sources in the water, in sediment and in fish in three major rivers that flow into Lake Michigan.
Read more here.
How we swallow 114 pieces of plastic with every meal: Household dust containing soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics fall onto dinner plates before being consumed
We could be swallowing more than 100 tiny plastic particles with every main meal, a shocking study reveals.
The plastic, which can come from soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics, gets into household dust which falls on plates and is consumed.
UK scientists made the discovery after putting Petri dishes containing sticky dust traps on the table next to dinner plates in three homes at meal times.
Read the full article from the Daily Mail here.
How damaging is breathing in microplastics?
Amsterdam, 23 March 2018 – Around 16% of the plastic produced annually in the world consists of textile fibers. In recent decades, production has grown by 6% every year and is now around 60 million tons per year. Synthetic clothing is responsible for endless amounts of microfibers which can even be found in drinking water. And what’s worse, hardly any research has been carried out into the presence of tiny plastic particles in the air. […]
Does breathing these fibers in damage health? In a recently published article in ScienceDirect, the French researchers, this time together with their British counterparts, expressed their extreme concern and called for urgent more in-depth interdisciplinary research. In their article entitled “Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in?” they discuss where particles are coming from and what the health risks are. Most of the particles people breathe in find their way out again.
However there are fears that some of the particles penetrate deep into the lungs and remain there permanently, simply because plastic does not break down. It is possible that the body reacts to these particles, for example through infections, especially in people who are less fit.
Read the full article here.
WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water. […]
A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US. It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.
The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestlé, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.
Read the full article here.
California legislation will require polyester clothing to have a microfiber pollution label
Amsterdam, March 9th – New legislation in California would require clothing items containing more than 50% of polyester to carry a label warning that the garment releases plastic microfibers when machine washed. The label would, in that case, recommend consumers to hand wash the clothing item.
The bill was introduced in February 2018 and, if it passes, it would be prohibited to sell clothing without this label as of January 1, 2020. Hats and shoes would be exempt of this requirement.
Read more about it here.
Sustainable shopping: how to stop your bathers flooding the oceans with plastic
If there is one item of clothing that bridges the gap between land and ocean, it’s swimwear. Most of our clothes release tiny plastic fibres into the water every time they are washed. But while some washing machines and waste-water treatments can filter out a large percentage of the plastic, what happens when we wear our bathers, a microfibre bomb, to the beach?
These plastics go directly into the water and are consumed by marine life, which finally ends up on our dinner plate! To help keep our bathers on the outside, rather than in our stomachs, it’s important to know how to take care of them, recycle them, and shop for sustainable swimwear.
Read more here.
Story of Stuff Petition – Stop Plastic Microfiber Pollution!
“Most of us wear synthetic fabrics like polyester every day. Our dress shirts, yoga pants, fleeces, and even underwear are all increasingly made of synthetic materials — plastic, in fact.”
Story of Stuff has started a petition demanding clothing companies to take responsibility for microfiber pollution. “Its time companies took responsibility for the pollution their products cause. That’s why we’ve helped to introduce first-in-the-nation legislation in California this week to address plastic microfiber pollution.”
Read more about and sign the petition here.
UNSW wins largest share of latest ARC funding
Sydney, 7 February 2018 – UNSW has been awarded almost $4 million in ARC Linkage Grants for nine projects, including research on marine pollution, coastal hazards, ocean weather, antibiotic use, and Aboriginal health and wellbeing.
Among the largest ARC Linkage Project grants announced was $786,000 to Dr Mark Browne from UNSW’s School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences and the Dean of Science Professor Emma Johnston. Their project aims to tackle the most abundant type of marine pollution – clothing fibres – which has increased over 450% in 60 years. It will determine how these fibres, along with clothing brands and washing machine filters, reduce fibre emissions and their ecological impact.
Read the full article here.
European Textile Inustry’s Microfiber Initiative Puts Off Taking Action
Amsterdam, 2 February 2018 – Plastic microfibers are released during the machine washing of synthetic clothing. Microfibers in the environment are difficult to tackle and form a huge problem. In its Plastic Strategy the European Commission expresses its support for a new initiative by a European industrial consortium, which aims to prevent plastic microfibers entering water. On 16 January, the very day that the EC presented its Plastic Strategy, the consortium released this declaration.
The aim of the industry’s initiative is to find feasible solutions and develop test methods. To achieve this, the consortium intends to spend the first half of 2018 analyzing the problem. In addition to this it wants to put a draft proposal to the European Commission by the end of 2018 stating which knowledge needs to be developed in order to work on possible solutions. The declaration is incredibly vague.
Read the whole article here.
ONLY YOU Can Prevent Microfiber Pollution
Microplastics, and specifically microfibers, have emerged as one of the hot-button water pollution issues of the 21st century. Although the scale of the problem is daunting, the scientific community and both the private and public sectors are beginning to take action.
Turns out, the solution to microplastics pollution may come down to everyday folks like us, and boaters can lead the charge.
Read this interesting overview of the issue by Northwest Yachting.
Millions of microfibers in wastewater from every wash
Amsterdam, 24 November 2017 – Between 600,000 and 17,700,000 microfibers are released in every 5-kilo wash; that is the equivalent of 0.43 to 1.27 grams in weight. Wastewater rinses these fibers during washing and most end up in the surface water, because water purification installations are not equipped to stop them. The fibers are extremely small and their numbers are endless. As a result, they enter the food chain relatively easily. This is one of the main conclusions of the European Mermaids Life+ project, whose results have now been published in the magazine Environmental Pollution.
Read the full article here.
Prince Charles’s new clothes have a synthetic look
October 26, 2017. Whether it is for his suits with wide lapels or professionally burnished burgundy brogues, Prince Charles has long been fêted by fashionistas from Burberry to Vogue as one of Britain’s most unlikely style icons.
Prince Charles has now shown concern in pollution of our oceans from synthetic clothing.
Read the full article from The Times.
We are living on a plastic planet. What does it mean for our health?
New studies reveal that tiny plastic fibres are everywhere, not just in our oceans but on land too. Now we urgently need to find out how they enter our food, air and tap water and what the effects are on all of us.
Sometimes a single revelation opens our eyes to a whole new view of the world. The contamination of tap water around the world with microplastics, exposed on Wednesday in the Guardian, unmasks Earth as a planet pervasively polluted with plastic.
Read the full article from The Guardian.
Fibres from synthetic clothing disastrous for mankind and the oceans
By machine washing our clothes, we are polluting our seas and oceans. This is the shocking result of years of scientific research, which will be presented during a press conference at the Conscious Hotel in Amsterdam tomorrow. It has been proven that fibres from synthetic clothing are not only found in water, but even in the food we eat and the air we breathe. An International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report published in February 2017 also claims that the use of synthetic fibres increased by 79.3% between 1992 and 2010.
Cora Ball ‘catches’ microfibers from clothing
The Plastic Soup Foundation congratulates the Rozalia Project’s Rachel Miller on her successful Cora Ball Kickstarter campaign to reduce pollution. The Kickstarter campaign reached its goal of $10,000 within three hours and is currently at over $162,000.
Millions of minute synthetic fibers are released every time we wash synthetic clothing. The fibers are washed with the laundry water into the environment, enter the food chain and end up on our plates. The Cora Ball is one of the first innovative solutions for this problem.
The design of the Cora Ball is a form of biomimicry – technology that is inspired and based on mechanisms in nature. One potential solution for the problem of plastic fibers in the ocean actually comes from the ocean itself. The Cora Ball is inspired by coral’s ability to filter minute food particles from flowing water. The water in washing machines flows past the Cora Ball and the microfibers stick to its stalks.
To make the scale of the problem easier to visualize, Miller gives the comparison that if only ten percent of American households would use the Cora Ball, it would prevent more than thirty million plastic bottles from entering the environment.
Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation says that “This is a wonderful blend of female intuition and technology. That this project is successful just shows that the best innovative ideas can come from special people and that the cleverest ideas are often the simplest. Rachel Miller lives high up a mountain in Vermont and has just about achieved this by herself. This is laudable.”
Ocean Clean Wash Statement
March 2nd, 2017. Due to a delay, we were not able not launch the Eco-Innovation Challenge to stop the shredding of synthetic fibres from clothes on February 14th. Read more.
Ocean Clothes Are Still Not The Solution
We need to ditch the idea that we can easily clean up the oceans. We need to fix the problem at the source: preventing plastic from ending up in the ocean in the first place.
Are people who buy trendy clothes made from ocean plastic cleaning up the plastic soup? Or are they just helping greenwash the companies that make and sell these products? More and more brands are presenting ocean plastics as a viable sea clean up solution; they’re not. Ocean clothes actually contribute to the ongoing pollution of our seas!
Synthetic clothes made of polyester, acrylic and nylon, including ocean plastic, shed microfibers during machine washing and drying. Recently, researchers from Plymouth University estimated more than 700,000 fibers for every 6 kilos of laundry while the EU-funded Mermaids project even found higher numbers. These fibers easily enter the environment through the waste water.
So what’s the big deal with all this plastic shedding? Microfibers in water act as magnets for pollutants which then collect in deep-sea organisms, mussels, worms and oysters. A third of the food we eat is contaminated with microfibers!
Most of today’s clothing is synthetic and more people will be using washing machines to wash them in the years to come. It is urgent that real solutions are found to stop the release of plastic microfibers from clothes in washing machines. When we wash a garment that is made of ocean plastic, we return the plastic where it was retrieved, but now in an even smaller and more dangerous microfiber form that easily enters the food chain.
Read the full article here.
More than 700,000 plastic fibers for every 6 kilos of laundry
Clothing has been made from synthetic fabrics for more than 50 years. These items of clothing shed fibers during machine washing. It is becoming more and more evident that this involves huge quantities and that synthetic clothing is a large source of the microplastics which are polluting the oceans. Up to now there have been few studies on how great the loss of fibers is and under which circumstances the loss of fibers can be reduced. This involves washing at different temperatures, the use of different detergents and washing different sorts of synthetic fabrics, including synthetics combined with cotton. British researchers from the University of Plymouth have now answered these questions.
KIMO International is now supporting the Ocean Clean Wash campaign
The International Environmental Organization KIMO, with over 70 members in 7 countries and representing more than 5 million citizens across Europe, is now supporting the Ocean Clean Wash campaign. KIMO, funded in Denmark in August 1990, works on the development of sustainable coastlines communities by preventing pollution of the seas, protecting coastal communities from the impacts of marine pollution and climate change and representing its members at an international and national level.
Plastic Soup Foundation and Parley for the Oceans Form Alliance to end Plastic Microfiber Pollution Through “Ocean Clean Wash” Campaign.
HONOLULU, Sept. 6, 2016 – Plastic Soup Foundation and Parley for the Oceans Form Alliance to end Plastic Microfiber Pollution Through “Ocean Clean Wash” Campaign. Dr. Sylvia Earle, worlds most famous Oceanographer, is present to support the campaign.
Today during the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, Plastic Soup Foundation (Amsterdam) and Parley for the Oceans (New York) announce their partnership. It will combat one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution in our oceans: micro and nano fibers released from washing synthetic clothes.
Plastic Soup Foundation launched the “Ocean Clean Wash” campaign in April. After a strong response by the fashion industry, Plastic Soup Foundation is now partnering with Parley to unite their programs in the field of micro fiber pollution and to establish a united, global alliance of brands, governments, non-governmental organizations, science and creative industries.
Read the rest of the press release here.