Think about how many people are washing their clothes on a daily basis, and how many clothes we all have.
In recent years, we have begun to understand the true extent of the plastic crisis we face globally. Plastic has only been around 80 or so years, but we have created 91 billion tonnes of it in that time and only recycled 10%. The once-heralded revolutionary material even made its way into fashion production. In the 1950s, polyester was introduced into men’s suits by chemical company DuPont, and since then, plastic has become a core part of much of our clothing.
The finer details
About 60% of material made into clothing is plastic, including polyester, acrylic, and nylon textiles. These synthetic fabrics are lightweight, durable, affordable, and flexible. However, they also take hundreds of years to decompose.
They release harmful toxins into the environment when they do and end up in the food chains. Scientists believe humans could be consuming roughly five grams of plastic each week, the effects of which on our health are still unclear!
These fibers contribute to ocean plastic pollution in a subtle but pervasive way - the fabrics they make - along with synthetic-natural blends leach into the environment just by being washed. Estimates vary, but it’s possible that a single load of laundry could release hundreds of thousands of fibres from our clothes into the water supply.
There, they’re adding to the microplastic pollution that’s accumulating in the food chain.
It is being ingested by all sorts of marine wildlife and even us.
In terms of several pieces, most of the plastic in the ocean is not in the form of whole products like cups or straws, but instead from broken-down shreds of plastic.
What's the answer?
It might seem like there’s an easy solution to the problem of our clothes shedding plastic.
Just buy natural fibres, or fewer clothes overall.
But it shouldn’t be a luxury to be environmentally conscious. Often, synthetic clothing is affordable clothing.
Textile manufactures could also design fabrics that shed less.
The clothing companies could utilize them, and consumers could be more mindful.
Two solutions are made to reduce the number of plastics that pollute our environments and oceans. One is to reduce the number of clothes we are buying. The second option is to wash only when it is necessary to do.