Micro Fibers and Micro Plastic: What they are and how they affect our lives.

April 22nd is Earth day, but why not make April earth month? With everyone staying at home the Earth is getting a chance to breath and recover from all the pollution. Canals are clearer, attracting back wildlife. Air quality has dramatically improved. Now we together need to improve our bad habits that have gotten the Earth to the state that it's in. Throughout April I will be posting different types of pollution, and what we can to do put a stop or lessen the impact. Today I will talk to you about micro plastics.


Micro plastics are basically baby pieces of plastic, less than 5mm to be exact.

Micro fibers are micro plastics but specifically shed from clothing. This becomes a problem when the item of clothing is made from synthetic materials such as acrylic, polyester, and nylon.


In the Sustainability conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology last year, I learned that 1 load of laundry can release between 2,000 to 700,000 micro fibers. This depends on the size of load and what exactly is being washed. For example, a polyester fleece jacket is going to shed a lot more than a woven polyester button up shirt. It has also been found that the older the garment is, the more it sheds.


I also learned that around 100,000 marine mammals and 1,000,000 sea birds die every year from plastic and micro plastics. We learned about sea turtles and plastic straws, but think about ALL the other plastic we use on a daily basis.


Not all micro plastics come from our clothes, some come from bigger pieces of plastic that are left on the beaches or carried by the wind into the ocean. These bigger pieces of plastic break up into micro plastics. There is evidence that micro plastics end up in large marine life, such as whales and dolphins but even fish and plankton can't help but to consume micro plastics.



Microfibers from clothes make up 35% of the micro plastics found in the ocean.



There is also evidence that these synthetic fibers like nylon, acrylic, and polyester not only shed when being washed, but when being worn too. Micro plastics have also been found in chicken, honey, and both bottled and tap water. It's highly likely that we are breathing in and consuming micro plastics on a daily basis. Not only are our clothes made from synthetic fibers but think of all our other household items that are - pillows, blankets, carpets, curtains, rugs, etc- shed everyday.


What can you do to contribute less micro plastics and micro fibers into the ocean?


1. You can purchase a Guppy Bag . This goes into the washing machine with your clothes inside the bag and prevents microfibers from leaving the machine and entering into the ocean. Yes your clothes stay just as clean. You can purchase a guppy bag through Patagonia here.


2. The Cora Ball is an alternative to the Guppy Bag. This also goes inside the washing machine and catches micro fibers and pet hair, or any other debris from exiting the washing machine. You can purchase one online here.


3. Simply wash your clothes less. Just because you wore it once does not mean it is dirty. Wearing a t-shirt to the grocery store and then coming home to change into some PJ's doesn't mean that t-shirt has to be washed before being worn again. Pj's also don't need to be changed out every night. If you were outside on a sunny day and sweating through your shirt- yes wash it. But spot cleaning, and hanging out in the open to air out usually does the trick to not need to wash your clothes as much.


4. READ THE LABELS ON YOUR CLOTHING. There are pros and cons to natural vs synthetic, but when it comes to shedding, natural fibers shed significantly less and also are biodegradable. Try to stay away from acrylic, polyester, and nylon as much as you can. It can take up to 500 years for a polyester top to decompose.


5. Make sure when you do laundry, it's a full load. This is for those of you who are fortunate enough to have a washer and dryer at home, because I know for those that have to pay are only going when we have at LEAST 3 full loads of laundry to do (I just had to go out and do 4 double loads).


6. Wash you clothes in cold or warm water rather than hot water. Hot water increases shedding amount.


7. Air dry your clothes when possible. Summer is coming up, whip out a clothes line or drying rack and open up a window. You'll save money and help the environment.


A Plastic Ocean is an amazing documentary on Netflix that you can watch and learn more about the affects of plastic on our ocean ecosystems.






SOURCES:

https://www.oceancleanwash.org/the-issue/

https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/08/28/microfiber-pollution-ocean

https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/blog/2017/3/2/15-ways-to-stop-microfiber-pollution-now


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Marisa Cheyenne Martin 

marisacheyenne14@gmail.com

(315)561-6567

Brooklyn, NY