Microplastics are an increasingly worrying problem for the planet – they made it to the Arctic. What’s worse, scientists found microplastics in human blood. Their adverse effect on human health is yet to be fully understood, but it certainly won’t be positive.
Microplastics in sediments from the rivers Elbe, Moser, Neckar, and Rhine.
Some industries are worse than others when it comes to microplastic emissions. According to the study by Environmental Action, the paint industry is responsible for 58% of all microplastics in our oceans. But the tyre and textile industries aren’t lagging that much behind. That is why it’s our responsibility as a clothing manufacturer to shine some light on this issue.
So let’s start with why we still use fabrics that contribute to microplastic emissions.
Still one of the best fabrics for making activewear
Polyester fabrics (both virgin and recycled) are still the fabrics with one of the best moisture-wicking properties. We know that from our own private label experience, but also from the science behind the claim.
The fibre structure and chemical properties of polyester yarn allow a fast transition of sweat from a liquid into vapour. All that without dampening the clothes. That’s why you’ll find them in the vast majority of sportswear. When a brand uses recycled polyester, they do make an ecological contribution. One recycled polyester t-shirt will remove eight water bottles from the sea, water stream, or landfill.
Even though merino wool performs similarly, if not better, we still can’t afford to buy equipment to process it. That’s mainly because our existing and prospective clients have shown little to no interest in merino wool.
So where’s the problem?
Even though it reuses the plastic, that same t-shirt will shed after each wash. That results in the release of microplastics in the drainage systems and, finally, in rivers and seas.
Microplastics are becoming a more worrying concern the more we learn about them. The jury is still out on whether or not microplastics cause harm to our health, as there isn’t enough data to have a claim in either direction. But it is worrying enough that plastic has become a part of our diet, whether we like it or not. So until governments start banning plastics altogether or until washing machine companies start investing in filters that will keep the microplastics out of our water streams (Grundig has already started this), we can only rely on what we as individuals can do.
Here are the 6 things you can do to reduce your microplastic contributions:
- Use a microplastics filter like the one sold by PlanetCare. It filters out all the water exiting the washing machine before releasing it into nature free from microfibers.
- Opt for colder washing cycles (ideally 30 °C), and if you’re concerned about the odour not going away at 30 °C, there’s a workaround. Put your polyester clothes and some activated charcoal in a plastic container and leave overnight. The activated charcoal will collect a lot of that odour.
- Don’t use a drier. There are two perfect natural driers – air and sunshine, use them.
- You can also add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. It will strengthen the fibres and reduce shedding. It may eat through seals and rubber hoses of your washer, so take this one with a pinch of salt.
- Get your hands on fibre collectors. Companies like Guppyfriend and Cora Ball started addressing the issue at its source – the washing machine. Guppyfriend by creating washing bags that collect microfibers and don’t shed themselves, Cora Ball by designing coral-like balls that attract the loose fibres from the water.
- Spray your polyester pieces with spray starch. Stiffer fibres = less shedding.