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How the plastic IN our clothes is one of the ocean's biggest polluters (and it's washing them that's doing the damage)

About 60% of our clothing is guilty.

14 Aug 2019

How highly do you rate your knowledge of sustainability?

If you're avid readers of GLAMOUR UK, you'll likely know that seaweed, apples, pineapples and mushrooms are brilliant sustainable fashion materials, and that it can take over 15,000 litres of water to grow the cotton to make just ONE pair of jeans. You also likely know that plastic bottles/bags/packaging is bad news. But did you also know that one major source of pollution comes from plastic WITHIN your clothes? As in, your clothes are MADE with plastic.

About two thirds of our worldwide clothing is made from forms of plastic such as polyester, nylon and acrylic, and by just washing your clothes you're leaking these plastic fibres into our oceans. Estimates vary, but it's believed that just a single load of laundry could release hundreds of thousands of these fibres into the water supply.

These fibres may be tiny - approx. 5 millimetres in length - but it really adds up. According to a report by Friends of the Earth, an estimated 2,900 tonnes of microplastic fibres is passed through to rivers and estuaries annually from the UK alone.

In fact, clothing and textiles are reportedly the number one source of microplastics in our oceans worldwide. Yikes.

But what can we do to help? Obviously throwing out our washing baskets and never cleaning our clothes again would tick a major chore off our list - and remove us from our poor ocean's bad books - but it's not entirely practical.

Fashion Revolution have four useful tips for ways to tackle fashion's major plastic problem... see you in the queue for a Coraball.

  1. Take a look at your labels and make a note of those pieces containing plastics - the word 'poly' can be a good indicator (also watch out for nylon and acrylic).
  2. Use your voice - write to the brands you love who are producing plastic-based clothes and ask them what they’re doing to address microfibre pollution. Once you’ve drafted an email, why not fire it off to your washing machine manufacturer and your policy representative too?
  3. Once you know which of your clothes are plastic, consider caring for them differently - Using a microfiber catcher like Coraball or Guppybag in your washing load can help reduce the number of microplastics entering the water stream. Spot cleaning rather than washing every day can make a big impact too. And ditch the tumble dryer if you can.
  4. Because plastic-based fibres aren’t biodegradable, it’s important to help them avoid landfill by repairing them and making sure #LovedClothesLast.
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⬆️⬆️⬆️ It’s true - clothing and textiles are the no.1 source of primary microplastics in our oceans. This finding from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, 2017) is yet another reminder of why we must keep asking #WhoMadeMyClothes, and then take that conversation a step further to ensure that the materials and production methods don’t cost the earth. How can we take action? Here are 4 ways to tackle fashion’s plastic problem… 1️⃣ Take a look at your labels and make a note of those pieces containing plastics - the word 'poly' can be a good indicator (also watch out for nylon and acrylic). ☑️ 2️⃣ Use your voice - write to the brands you love who are producing plastic-based clothes and ask them what they’re doing to address microfibre pollution. Once you’re drafted an email, why not fire it off to your washing machine manufacturer and your policy representative too? 3️⃣ Once you know which of your clothes are plastic, consider caring for them differently - Using a microfiber catcher like Coraball or Guppybag in your washing load can help reduce the number of microplastics entering the water stream. Spot cleaning rather than washing every day can make a big impact too. And ditch the tumble dryer if you can ☑️ 4️⃣ Because plastic-based fibres aren’t biodegradable, it’s important to help them avoid landfill by repairing them and making sure #LovedClothesLast ☑️ 🙏🎨🙏💚🙏🧵🙏 artwork by @ferncooke

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