Polyester Clothing Polluting Oceans by Washing Them
A team of international researchers have discovered that polyester clothing is polluting the oceans with microplastics. This is adding to the irreparable harm done to our planet’s oceans by the various plastic goods that we utilize and dump. In the case of polyester clothing, the microplastics are being released to our waterways by simply washing them.
Yes, just washing polyester clothing releases plastics into waterways.
Microplastics have been found to be accumulating within our oceans. They contaminate shorelines and bioaccumulate among the various populations of fish and other species in the oceans.
Polyester clothing washing studied
A 2016 study from the School of Marine Science and Engineering at Plymouth University studied the release of microplastics from washing polyesterclothing. They laundered the fabrics and then followed the waste water and tested it.
The researchers found that an average 6 kilogram average washer load of polyester clothing will release about 700,000 fibers into the waste water. The average fiber size they found ranged from 12 to 18 micron in diameter and 5 to 7 millimeters in length.
The researchers concluded:
“As fibres have been reported in effluent from sewage treatment plants, our data indicates fibres released by washing of clothing could be an important source of microplastics to aquatic habitats.”
In 2011, researchers from University College Dublin found that plastic debris less than 1 millimeter in diameter are released when polyester clothing is machine washed. Their analyses found that a single wash will release more than 1900 fibers of microplastics per piece of clothing.
This study, performed by scientists from Ireland, Australia, the UK and Canada, conducted water study tests at 18 shorelines around the world. They found that microplastics were accumulating among these shorelines and contaminating the sea life in those regions.
The study was published in the Environmental Science and Technology.
Other ocean microplastic studies
Other research on microplastics have been conducted by Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. Captain Moore is famous for raising awareness of the “great Pacific garbage patch” – an area of plastic and microplastic accumulation on the Pacific ocean the size of Texas. Further research has found that plastic bags and other plastic materials break down over time and form these microplastic particles, which also bioaccumulate among sea life.
This is one reason the State of California banned plastic bags in 2017.
Captain Moore’s research discovered – to the horror of many – that microplastic accumulation in the region outweighed the quantity of zooplankton by a factor of six to one. A visit to the region one year ago found that the microplastic levels have increased by 600%.
Bottled water contains microplastics according to other research.
Learn more about how to manage our waterways and how to drink pure water:
Napper IE, Thompson RC. Release of synthetic microplastic plastic fibres from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions. Mar Pollut Bull. 2016 Nov 15;112(1-2):39-45. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.09.025.
Browne MA, Crump P, Niven SJ, Teuten E, Tonkin A, Galloway T, Thompson R. Accumulation of microplastic on shorelines woldwide: sources and sinks. Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Nov 1;45(21):9175-9.