It won't be an overstatement to say that plastic is everywhere. Even our most basic necessities contain traces of plastic, including the clothes we wear -- most of which are made of synthetic fibres made by mixing plastic compounds with natural fibres. They might look good and feel comfortable and can almost be considered harmless until the time you put them in a washing machine.
A tight spin and each cycle sheds perhaps more than 1,00,000 synthetic fibres that eventually end up getting dumped into rivers, seas -- embedding in animal tissues, swirling in the water column and sticking in the sediment.
Let us get the facts straight firs: More than 60 per cent of clothing includes synthetic fabrics, and that market share is growing fast. From yoga pants to stretchy socks and sweatshirts, synthetics are becoming unavoidable day by day.
“It's reaching a crescendo with every new study that comes out that shows that microplastics are in our food, in our drinking water,” says Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste.
“I think it's going to reach a point of no return where people say 'I don't want to be consuming plastic,' and I think we're close to there.”
To emphasise on the gravity of the situation, one study brought it down to just a single city -- Toronto. It calculated that a single load of laundry might shed 91,000 to 1,38,000 microfibers. The city’s 1.2 million households do an annual average of 219 loads.
So each year, Toronto could be washing 23 trillion to 36 trillion microfibers into its wastewater. True, wastewater treatment sequesters somewhere between 83 to 99.9 per cent of microplastics from the input, depending on what facility and what study you’re looking at. But that would still mean 234 billion to 356 billion microfibres flowing into the environment each year from one city.
With the aftermath of microfibres spreading like a wildfire, it's time you take these required steps too!
How can you help?
1. Switch to organic fabrics and clothing lines as natural fibres will eventually break down in the environment
2. Get rid of and fast-fashion chains -- they release microfibres every time they are washed
3. Use fewer cloth dryers. Give preference to airdrying as it does not let the particles break down due to friction caused by cloth dryers
4. Wash synthetic clothes less frequently and for shorter duration
5. Consider switching to liquid laundry soap. Laundry powder “scrubs” and loosens more microfibres
6. Use a colder wash setting as warmer settings tend to loosen the fibres and make them break down even more
7. Consider purchasing a wash bag and washing your clothes in it
8. Make sure your washing machine has a lint filter