Researchers, who are studying the accumulation of microplastics in the global oceans, have documented a link between microplastics and laundry. Yes that’s right – our washing machines!
A single garment made of synthetic plastic-based material (for example: polyester, acrylics, nylons) can release > 1900 plastic fibers per wash. These fibers are then transported to wastewater treatment facilities that discharge to rivers that travel to the ocean or are directly discharged to the ocean. Scientists looked at shorelines at 18 beaches worldwide and found microplastics at every beach on six continents! As expected, greater concentrations of microplastic were found in more densely populated areas.
Much of the plastic in the ocean is in the form of tiny pieces which can be eaten by marine life and passed through the food web. Plastic can be toxic or may physically harm or kill ocean life. Microplastics may the result of broken down larger plastics items and now we know are also from wastewater discharges. Microplastics do not breakdown completely in the environment and pose a long-term hazard in the ocean.
So the next time you shop – check the material content and consider the ocean! Click here for the study’s abstract.