Some of them are visible to the naked eye, some are microscopic. They infiltrate every aspect of our lives, from work, to home. They follow us on vacation, but they’re already at your destination. They travel by water, they embed themselves in every nook and cranny they can fester in, and they are making animals and humans sick.
This insidious infestation is not a virus, but it is a plague. It’s called microplastic, and its already almost everywhere.
According to the dictionary, microplastics are:
- n. extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste. Source
“we dump huge amounts of plastic waste into the ocean every year, much of it ending up as microplastic.”
When microplastics are released into the environment, namely the ocean, it is referred to as a ‘loss.’ And what is one of the biggest contributors of microplastic loss into our environment? It comes from our very homes, through our laundry.
How is that possible when you’re not tossing water bottles or straws in with your regular laundry cycle? Because the majority of our fashion is made from synthetic textiles, AKA plastic. Here are some common textile names for plastics in disguise:
In fact, according to researchers Julien Boucher and Damien Friot in their work, “Primary Microplastics in the Oceans: a Global Evaluation of Sources,” almost 35% of all ocean microplastic is comes from our washing synthetic textiles, like the ones mentioned above.
The next biggest contributor is from tire erosion. When we drive our cars, or even bikes, the rubber breaks down and eventually washed to the side of the road, into storm drains, where it meets up with tributaries and rivers before finally reaching the sea.
Synthetic textile laundry run off and tire erosion combined? That accounts for two-thirds of all the ocean’s microplastics. That’s crazy!!!
How do we stop this?
I need to drive to work and school. I need to get my kids to day care. I can’t afford $50 organic cotton underwear. How can I possibly make a difference?
You can, I swear.
Firstly, maintain those tires. It’s not only safe, it will end up being more cost effective than letting your tires wear down. When you’re getting rid of old tires, find a tire recycling program. None in your area? There are some more great tips on how to recycle tires from Earth911.com
What about clothes? Organic fibers are expensive!
They sure are. I can only afford to splurge on them once and a while. Plus, I don’t really *need* any new clothes. Should I get rid of my synthetic fiber fashion from the days of yore? Things that still fit and look good?
No! Don’t get rid of things you use! There is a solution!
Brilliant entrepreneurial environmentalists have developed solutions, like the Guppy Friend, a masterfully designed bag that traps microplastics, preventing them making their way into the runoff. Just stuff your clothes into the Guppy Friend and wash as normal. Marvelous!
“Primary Microplastics in the Oceans: a Global Evaluation of Sources” By Julien Boucher, Damien Friot