June 14, 2018 What’s in my wash?
While legislators fumble and experts still try to determine who to point the finger at, the #WhatsInMyWash campaign is getting to work, providing actionable advice on what can be done today to minimize microfiber pollution.
Over 1/3 of the microplastics in the ocean are believed to come from washing textiles. If this is true, our seemingly innocent clothes are in fact the largest contributors to marine plastic pollution and solutions are proving hard to find. Unlike plastic bags and microbeads, microfibers cannot simply be removed from our supply chains – and what of the synthetics already dominating our wardrobes? The knowledge gap remains large, and the regulatory framework a virtual vacuum.
But as #WhatsInMyWash sees it, that this is a bit of a humdinger doesn’t mean we can’t start taking action now. By focusing on what we do know about microfibers, their aim is to educate businesses and consumers on how to help combat microfiber pollution.
Where do these microfibers come from?
According to #WhatsInMyWash, microfibers are released from synthetic fabrics during production and use, but especially each time they’re washed. The friction caused by washing results in microfibers shedding away from the fabric where, depending on the type of fabric, between 730,000 – 17.7 million plastic microfibers can be released each wash. The water from the washing machine then drains into waste water treatment centers, but as the fibers are so small the filtration systems have a catch rate of only 65-92%. The rest end up as sewage sludge to be sprayed in agriculture or are dumped straight into the ocean and find their way into marine animals and various products sold for human consumption such as fish, honey, sea salt and drinking water.
#WhatsInMyWash believes cross-sector collaboration is essential and facilitates bringing retailers, manufacturers and industry experts together with the goal of pulling up the microfiber pollution problem from its roots. In the meantime, there are also some very simple steps consumers can take to reduce the amount of microfiber shed by their clothing. #WhatsInMyWash recommends the following three rules of thumb:
1. Wash only when needed: Air out clothing and spot-clean whenever possible.
2. Drop Fast Fashion: choose quality and durability when buying new – pick clothes you’ll wear at least 30 times.
3. Be Gentle: Wash at 30 degrees, with full loads, and avoid tumble dryers. Throw material from the lint filter into the waste bin and not down the drain.