Polyester is one of the most popular materials used in the fashion industry due to its affordability, durability, and ease of care. However, recent studies have shown that the production and disposal of polyester clothes can have a significant impact on the environment, especially when it comes to microplastics. Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that are smaller than 5mm and are a growing concern for our oceans and the wildlife that depend on them.
The Shedding of Microplastics:
When we wear polyester clothes, they can shed tiny fibers, known as microfibers, into the environment. These microfibers can easily make their way into waterways and eventually end up in the ocean where they can harm marine life. Research has shown that a single synthetic garment can release up to 1.7 grams of microfibers per wash. However, the shedding of microfibers from clothing can occur even without washing. Friction from wearing and washing clothes can cause fibers to break off, which can eventually make their way into the environment.
The Impact of Microplastics on Marine Life:
The presence of microplastics in our oceans is causing significant harm to marine life. These tiny particles can easily be ingested by wildlife, including fish, birds, and even whales, leading to physical harm, starvation, and death. In addition, microplastics can also absorb toxic chemicals from the surrounding water, which can be harmful to wildlife when ingested. Microplastics can also disrupt the food chain, as small organisms that consume these particles can be consumed by larger animals, leading to the accumulation of toxic chemicals in the food chain.
Washing vs. Wearing:
While washing synthetic clothing is a significant contributor to microplastics, wearing these clothes can also contribute to their release into the environment according to a new study. The results showed that up to 4,000 fibres per gram of fabric could be released during a conventional wash, while up to 400 fibres per gram of fabric could be shed by items of clothing during just 20 minutes of normal activity.This is because friction from rubbing against other surfaces, such as furniture or even our skin, can cause fibers to break off. Not only are these fibers damaging for the environment, we are inhaling and swallowing them.
Reducing the Release of Microplastics:
Fortunately, there are steps that individuals can take to reduce the release of microplastics into the environment. One of the easiest ways to do this is to wash synthetic clothing less frequently. This will help to reduce the number of microfibers released into the environment during washing. In addition, using a laundry bag designed to capture loose fibers during washing can also help to reduce the release of microplastics.
Another way to reduce the impact of microplastics is to choose natural fibers, such as cotton or linen, instead of synthetic materials like polyester. These natural fibers are biodegradable and do not release microfibers into the environment.
The impact of polyester clothing on the environment is a growing concern, especially when it comes to microplastics. The shedding of microfibers from clothing, both during washing and simply from wearing, is a significant contributor to the presence of microplastics in our oceans. However, there are steps that individuals can take to reduce their impact, such as washing synthetic clothing less frequently and choosing natural fibers instead of synthetic materials. By taking these steps, we can help to protect our oceans and the wildlife that depend on them.