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29 August 2017

How your washing could be harming the environment

Most of us are aware of how our consumption of single use plastics and non-biodegradable items contribute to environmental waste. We do our best to not litter, reduce our waste and pick up rubbish when we see it, but what about the waste produced from washing our clothes?

Research has uncovered a single washing machine cycle can pollute our oceans with up to 700,000 microscopic plastic fibres. These fibres which are considered microplastics, less than 5 mm in diameter, are nearly impossible to see and clean up. They end up floating in our oceans, harming our marine life and poisoning our food supply with toxic chemicals. The Guardian coined it “the biggest environmental problem you've never heard of.”

Most clothing produced nowadays is made from synthetic plastic fibres. Fabrics such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon, acetate, spandex, latex, Orlon and Kevlar are all made from synthetic plastic fibres in a process called polymerization. Chemicals produce from natural non-renewable resources such as sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide are used to produce most synthetic plastic fibres. The chemicals are pushed through spinnerets which are tiny holes that cool the chemicals and form tiny synthetic threads. The threads are then dyed and weaved into fabric. Synthetic fibres can be made with different qualities which make some synthetic fabrics more environmentally damaging than others when washed. Research completed by Plymouth University found acrylic fabric had the biggest environmental impact, releasing approximately 730,000 synthetic fibres in a single cycle.

Synthetic plastic fibres don’t biodegrade and the manufacturing process is environmentally damaging. Purchasing clothing made from natural fabrics such as cotton, linen (made from flax), silk, wool, cashmere, hemp or jute are more eco-friendly alternatives. These natural fabrics which have been used for thousands of years are non-toxic and biodegradable. When washed, they shed natural fibres that don’t pose a threat to our marine life.

Author & Editor

Tracey Bailey is the founder of Biome Eco Stores and mother of two. After working in corporate communications and starting a family, she made a choice to be part of the solution to our planet's future and started Biome Eco Stores. Tracey is passionate about educating the community about living eco-friendly and sustainable lives through her extended product, chemical, health and environmental knowledge.


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