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How Our Clothes Participate In Ocean Plastic Pollution


Did you know that even your simple daily routines, like washing your clothes, can be one of the reasons for plastic pollution? Synthetic fibers, which are base of manufactured fabrics, are getting more popular day by day just because they are cheap and stretchable and they also can be mixed with other natural fibers to provide all the qualities that users need. These fibers can go through the oceans and seas just by washing the clothes that contain them and not everyone knows about their effects on marine pollution. Ingesting them by marine animals can be one of the many ways that can harm the environment. According to Rachel Cernansky, The writer of The Washington Post article about water pollution, a washed synthetic fleece jacket can produce about 2.7 grams of free-floating plastic fibers, as the weight of a ping pong ball. Just because these fibers are unseen and almost impossible to clean up, we have paid less attention to them. But there is no doubt that they cause many problems for the environment in the future. If we do not pay attention to this matter and not be aware of the potential problems they might get out of hand and control. However, researchers and scientists have found ways that may be a hope to at least control this situation. We also should do our best to decrease the amount of these fibers that we add just by washing our clothes. Since this sea’s pollution has been more obvious these years and many researchers have warned about its consequences, encouraging people to be aware of their acts and their effects on marine life and giving them some solutions, like using regenerated manufactured fabrics or microfiber catchers, to participate in controlling it, is very crucial and can be helpful.

What can we do?

First, awareness about this synthetic fibers pollution can have a big effect on the way that people and industries participate in it. These fibers that came out of our clothes and not only our washing machines but also even when we wear these plastic clothes and walk, they are shedding everywhere. There is no filter system to catch them in the washing machine and that is how they find their way from wastewater to oceans.

“These microfibers are shed by every garment that is made with synthetic materials and has been put through a washing machine. When the water is expelled from the machine, it goes into wastewater systems and eventually into rivers and oceans,” said Cernansky.

All these plastic fibers, that have been entered marine life from wastewater, will affect the animal’s digestive system and at the end may have some impact on human health, as many of us eat these animals and they are one of our food sources in the food chain. In “Are Synthetic Fleece And Other Type Of Clothing Harming Our Water?” Cernansky’s article shows her concerns about the small animals that eat these fibers and shows that as a result, they may eat less food and that affects their growths and their survival rates. Furthermore, Brian Resnick, the writer of the Vox website, in his work mentions that it is so hard to estimate and measure the accurate amount of these fibers based on the fullness of the washing machine, the temperature of the water, the construction of its fabric and so on. However, there has been some evidence that shows there is a difference between the amount of fibers that the top-loading machines make comparing to the amount produced in the front-loading machines. These fibers may also be in our drinking water or they can be eaten by bigger animals of the seas that are part of our food source and this shows how important this issue can be. My point is not only knowing these data and the fact that how these fibers harm our marine life but to know what is our role in it and this awareness can be the first step to prevent and control it as much as we can. These pieces of evidence illustrate how these fibers can change human and marine animals’ digestive systems and how they may be a big reason for plastic pollution that is getting more critical day by day. For sure, one of the first steps of solving a problem is knowing it perfectly and this water pollution is still unknown for most of us. This information is not only about the people and how they can be prepared to control it, but it can also change the fashion industry by suggesting brands and designers have a different approaching when designing and producing their products. As we know a lot of brands in the industry are using these fibers on big scales in all sorts of their products without having a functional preventing method to decrease the use of them. Taking effective measures by brands to overcome this problem is essential, on the other hand, economical impact that it might have for these big names makes it an unattractive move for their shareholders.

What are the solutions? Researchers have found some solutions that may have a part in controlling the number of plastic fibers that humans produce by washing their clothes in washing machines. Some of these solutions can easily happen, but some of them are more complicated and even scientists are not sure about the results:

“Another challenge is that the science of microfibers — and microplastic pollution in general — is a relatively new field, and there are still many unknowns.”

This is what Chow mentions in her article to describe her concerns about all the unknown parts of synthetic fibers. One may agree that all these solutions may not be a certain way that will solve our problem because it confirms that all these plastic issues, especially the ones that plastic fibers caused, are so new to readers and researchers and there might be a lot of things that knowing them can change the whole approach. However, I strongly believe that looking for solutions and try to decrease this amount of plastic can not be useless.

Regenerating textiles and fabrics to reduce the amount of released microfibers and make them shed less daily or in a washing machine, can be one of the solutions that may have a great impact on this plastic pollution.

This new method for fabrics can be accepted as an ideal effective solution. Most parts of this water pollution came from the synthetic fibers and sheds of them are the main source of these plastics. Therefore, changing the structures of manufactured fabrics seems perfectly as a good solution. In addition, Coating is another way that can be added to the surface of fabrics and make sure that all these tiny fibers will remain at their place.

However, Resnick believes that we should look for more methodical solutions and that can be started from our washing machines. In other words, Resnick suggests that just changing our routines or using less plastic clothes can not be that effective, but some systematic approaches are what truly is required. Another systematic approach can be a “microfiber catcher” that has been mentioned in Cernansky’s article. In this study, they focus on an appliance that they add in the machine and it can trap the fibers and prevent them to go through the wastewater, but researchers believe these catchers are not going to completely solve this problem and it can not be a big help. After all, these shreds of evidence and ideas support my argument about how researchers are looking for a solution. These solutions may not be perfectly effective and may not be complete, but all these approaches can be a big help that we can do as a human for our earth and environment.

At the end, these synthetic fibers, that we have a big part in the growth of their amount, we make daily by using our washing machines by washing our clothes and the fact that most of our clothes are made of these fibers just because of their qualities, are one of the main sources of marine plastic pollution. This issue may end up to the extinction of some animals in the oceans and it can also change our digestion just because these animals are part of our food chain. So, being aware of what is actually happening around us and what is our role in it can be the first step that every human should take. On the other hand, researchers have found many ways and approaches that can be a solution. Though all of them are not going to solve the problem, they still can be a big help to prevent the plastic fibers and at least decrease their amount. I believe we all can cause a big change in this matter and try to keep the earth just the way it was before us.

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