Your clothes can harm: use these tips to avoid microplastics

When you dissect a seabird the chances are high you’ll find plastic in its stomach. As we have previously described, our oceans are full of microplastics. We’ve already covered the microbeads in our cosmetics, but did you know that clothing is also a major source of microplastics? Your stretch jeans, your polar fleece top and your polyester shirt – there’s a good chance that sea animals have already absorbed a piece of these clothes.

Our wardrobes are increasingly stuffed with clothing made from plastic. In fact, some 63% of clothes are made from plastic (such as polar fleece, which is made from PET plastic) or a mix of cotton and polyester. When you wash these clothes millions of plastic fibres end up in the wastewater when your clothing sheds them. This wastewater ultimately ends up in the oceans where it is absorbed by the sea life – birds, seals, fish, prawns and everything else that lives in the marine environment.

Possible solutions to microplastic pollution

A solution to the microplastics contaminating our oceans is still over the horizon, although there have been various initiatives to launch one. The best solution is of course to outlaw the products that cause these microplastics. Meanwhile, scientists in Italy and Spain have focused on the issue and have created a filter that can be fitted to washing machines. They are also in the process of creating coatings that will prevent the material from wearing down as well as a nanoball to which microplastics will adhere in the washing machine and which is discarded afterwards.

Tips for a sustainable wardrobe

Do you ever stop to consider the clothing you buy? Where does it come from, what does it contain, and what were the consequences of it to humans, animals and the environment? It is important to realise that much clothing is manufactured in low-wage countries where there is little regard for people and our planet.

  • Don’t buy excessively. Only buy the essentials and spend enough on them. Good essential clothing means you will have plenty of choice in terms of combinations for every occasion or time of day.
  • It is of course important that you buy clothing made of the proper materials. Don’t buy polyester clothes or clothing containing it.
  • Buy organic. Organic materials are often identifiable by their certification.
  • Buy Fair Trade so that you know your clothes were made by workers under good working conditions.
  • Don’t over-wash your clothes, and try to use cold water and environmentally-friendly detergent. Laundry balls and soap nuts are earth-friendly alternatives to conventional detergents.
  • If you have the space, buy a drying rack instead of using a tumble dryer. Hang your clothes properly and you won’t have to iron them.
  • Check the website of your clothing brand or shop to see whether they are affiliated with an organisation that fights for the environment or human rights, or check whether they are certified by such organisations.

Ultimately it is most important that more stringent requirements are imposed on the textile industry. Even though the sector is becoming more environmentally conscious, it still has a long way to go.