Synthetic Clothing Is Filling Our Oceans With Plastic

Our oceans have so much plastic in them at this point, they’re basically just ball-pits (rimshot), and greatly contributing to that mess, according to a recent piece by Vox, are the synthetic fabrics found in the majority of our clothing.

Plastics like “polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers… are now about 60 percent of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide,” Vox said, and hundreds of thousands of those fibers “leach into the environment just by being washed,” moving from washing machine to water supply to ocean.

Once they’re there, these tiny fibers are “adding to the microplastic pollution that’s accumulating in the food chain and being ingested by all sorts of marine wildlife, and even us.” One particularly terrifying study found that “73 percent of fish caught at mid-ocean depths in the Northwest Atlantic had microplastic in their stomachs.”

Though those microplasitic fibers are small — 5 millimeters or so — they build up, and some reports have estimated that a population of 100,000 people produce 793 pounds of “individual, teeny-tiny plastic shards” every year. When that rate is applied to over 7 billion people worldwide, the figure grows to OhMyGodWhatHaveWeDone pounds.

“It might seem like there’s an easy solution to the problem of our clothes shedding plastic: Just buy natural fibers,” the story said, but that line of thinking is a “luxury… Often, synthetic clothing is affordable clothing.”

And as they note, “It’s a similarly class-deaf message to insist everyone need to be wearing all organic cotton, wool, or hemp clothes (and natural fabrics can strain the environment in other ways, like requiring huge amounts of water to produce).”

So what’s the solution? Wash your polyester clothes only when necessary, the story said, and – all together now – BUY LESS THINGS.

“As we seek solutions to the overall issue of plastic pollution, we need to recognize that our clothing is a major part of the problem and will need to be part of the solution as well.”

You can read more about it at Vox.

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  • timerickson

    By those purported numbers, it’s 27,755 tons for a total world population, per year. I think that may be assuming each and every person is wearing synthetic clothing, which is decidedly not true.