Plastic Inside Your Clothes: The Impact and Solution

Humans have been generating more plastic waste now than ever before. Plastic and it’s byproducts can be found in nearly everything, and the waste litters our oceans and cities. It has a large contribution to stemming health issues, in both animals and humans. The fact that plastic cannot be escaped is proved even further when clothes are taken into consideration. The irresponsible usage and lack of upcycling has major short-term and long-term effects. 

It is clear that people have begun to be more conscious, by resisting the usage of plastic utensils, bottles and packaging- but people fail to realize that even their clothes contain plastic. 60% of clothing produced is made from plastic. Considering there are 16.9 million tons of clothing produced each year, it is important to realize that about 10,200,000 tons from that is plastic. What happens to it? Where does it all go?

A new problem arising from the usage of plastic in clothing, are the tiny microplastics (microfibers). When garments are washed in the washing machine, and the water is later disposed of, the microfibers get released into the environment. According to Plymouth University UK, each washing machine cycle can release 700,000 microscopic particles into the the world, infiltrating natural habitats. The study goes on to explain that a single person can release 300 million polyester particles, simply as a result of running their washing machine.

Which materials contain plastic?

  • Polyester
  • Polyamide
  • Spandex (lycra)
  • Acetate
  • Vegan Leather
  • Elastane
  • Acrylic
  • Nylon

Blends of these materials, especially containing synthetics are especially difficult because they are rarely recyclable and still release microfibers. Acrylic has proven to be one of the worst fabrics in this category.  An average washing load could release ~728,789 fibers from acrylic, ~137,951 fibers from polyester-cotton blend fabric, and ~496,030 fibers from polyester. 

The released fibers prove to be catastrophic for the environment. After being released into the environment, it is consumed by animals. The material proceeds to clog their guts and the animals commonly face death as a result. 

To prevent this problem from creating a larger impact, it is important to take a stand and learn about different solutions. Every time you go to buy clothes, buy sustainable fabrics. Investing in high quality materials leads to longer usage and less waste. The longer materials are used, the less plastic is wasted. 

Choose natural, biodegradable materials such as organic cotton, recycled cotton, bamboo, and Tencel. One of the most sustainable options include upcycling from your own wardrobe. Experiment with revamping your own wardrobe, stop investing in more unethical clothing. 

Wash your clothing less often, make sure you wash and buy with reason. The more frequently you wash your clothing, the more microfibers are released. Washing them in cooler temperatures for shorter amounts of time proves successful. Always be careful with how you dispose of your clothing and never undermine the beauty of upcycling. 

Check out 9 Sustainable Fabrics To Be On the Lookout For for more ideas about which materials to invest in. 

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