The microplastic issue that won’t leave you feeling as warm and fuzzy as your puffer.
It’s a staple item of clothing to combat the winter chills but how bad is your puffer for the environment? As it turns out, the microplastic particles from these jackets may be one of the biggest threats to our marine life…
A Plastic Problem
When we think of plastic pollution in our oceans, images of water bottles and plastic bags typically come to mind. Studies have recently shown however, that there are up to 236,000 tonnes of ‘microplastics’ in our oceans as of 2015 – the weight of over 1000 blue whales!
Where are they coming from? Our clothes.
These microplastics are so small that they’re unable to be seen by the naked eye. This is a disaster for our marine life because, as a result, huge quantities of microplastic particles are mistakenly consumed as part of their diet.
Worse for Wear
A report by research group Eunomia (funded by Friends of the Earth) has shown that the microfibres causing damage are contained within up to 64% of our clothes. Plastics including polyester, acrylic and nylon make up a range of our everyday clothes not limited to puffer jackets.
The problem is, that as a result of repeated wash and wear, microplastics from our clothes shed. In fact in 1 wash, each synthetic fleece jacket can release at least 1.7 grams of microplastics with older jackets releasing more. During the washing process, these particles are circulated to wastewater treatment plants however, due to their size, go undetected. They are consequently washed out to sea and end up on coastal shorelines, causing problems for many unsuspecting creatures.
Recently, a number of companies including Adidas have taken to producing clothes with materials made from plastic. These materials would usually end up in the environment. In fact, in an effort to recycle the enormous amount of plastic we produce, Adidas have committed to including plastic materials in all of their products by 2024. The process involves the cleaning, chopping up and melting of plastic so it can be moulded into another form such as yarn for fabrics. While this sounds fantastic in theory, the bigger picture is more complicated.
Unfortunately, these good intentions don’t provide the solution to our plastic problem as initially thought. Yes, the initiative reduces the level of virgin plastic produced and the amount of plastic entering the environment but, it provides greater opportunity for microplastics to pollute particularly the marine habitats in a much more harmful form.
Wear with Pride
So what can we do on an individual level? To make an impact regarding the amount of microplastic entering the environment, we need to consider the overall amount of plastic we consume. At this rate, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish (by weight). To stop this, we need to adopt the 5 R’s approach.
“Reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle and remove”
REDUCE the amount of clothing you buy and how often you wash it. REFUSE to settle for cheap quality items that contain plastic. REUSE your winter clothes from last season. RECYCLE your clothes by giving them a second life and finally, REMOVE unnecessary plastic from your wardrobe by limiting what you buy.
We only have one planet. Let’s clean it up.