The Fight Against Micro-Plastics
What are they? Where do they come from? How can we help?
What are Micro-Plastics?
Micro plastics are tiny shreds of plastic fibres that are released from fabrics in your clothes. Some of the worst culprits are synthetic fabrics such as fleeces. Fast fashion products and lower quality garments have a significantly bigger environmental impact in terms of ocean plastics. Interestingly, reports have found that “most of the plastic that’s in the ocean, in terms of number of pieces, is not in the form of whole products like cups or straws, but instead broken-down shreds of plastic1.” As very often micro plastics are smaller than the naked eye can see, it is easy to forget their presence especially when compared to photos of beaches and water covered in plastic pollution. The real danger surrounding micro-plastics is that once they are released into the environment, it is near impossible to do anything about it. The solution however, lies in stopping or at least significantly reducing the amount micro-plastic fibres that are released into our water ways and eventually oceans.
Where do they come from and how do they get there?
A paper in Environmental Science and Technology estimated that “a population of 100,000 people would produce approximately 1.02 kilograms of fibres each day.” That’s 793 pounds per year of individual, teeny-tiny plastic shards2. When you add that up for every single person wearing and washing clothes, to say that is a LOT of plastic fibres is an understatement. How are they released you may ask? The biggest culprit is washing – during the washing cycle, breakages in the yarns of the fabric releases microscopic fibres into the washing machine – you may have seen the lint caught in the mesh at the bottom of your machine? Well this is only a small portion of what is released – the majority is so small that you don’t see it and this is how it bypasses filters and ends up in our water ways.
What is the impact?
Once these micro plastics are in the ocean environment, there is no effective way to remove them. Alone micro-plastics can be harmful to ocean life but in addition, they soak up other chemicals and toxins in the water, are then ingested by marine life and work their way up the food chain. This can have a detrimental effect on marine life and is happening at a frightening rate – something needs to change.
How can we help?
The textile industry is by no means the sole contributor to the micro-plastic crisis, however it is one of the largest by far. As individuals there are multiple easy changes we can make to reduce our impact – ultimately lots of little changes add up to big change and we all should remember this! The easy things we can do as individuals are:
- Educate! Learn about where your clothes come from, how they are made and what they are made up of! All of these things impact the amount of micro-fibres your clothes shed. Higher quality long lasting garments shed far less fibres than cheaper ‘disposable’ fast fashion.
- Wash only were necessary. As washing is a large culprit of releasing these fibres into the oceans washing clothes only when completely necessary will have a massive impact on reducing this. Only worn that top for a couple of hours? Probably doesn’t need to go straight into the wash! These little changes can have more of an impact than you would imagine
- Buy to last. Move forward with a new outlook on fast fashion – stop buying throwaway pieces in favour of long lasting, high quality garments. Better for you and better for the environment. They may be slightly more costly however we LOVE Zanna Van Dijk’s* cost per wear principle which justifies spending slightly more on a long lasting garment as you so get much more wear from it.
*Zanna is a conscious travel and fitness blogger who is passionate about the environment. She is an ambassador for multiple environmental charities and runs her own sustainable fashion range – Stay Wild Swim. You can follow her and find more information on Instagram – @zannavandijk.
How does this relate to Proskins?
Proskins core fabrics (95% of our garments) are knitted from continuous filament yarn. The specific knit of this fabric minimises breakages in the yarn which means than next to no fibres are released during any stage of the garments lifestyle. In addition, our products are finished with an antibacterial silver treatment and this means that your garments stay fresher for longer and do not need to be washed as regularly as a standard pair of leggings. We recommend washing once every two weeks, on a low temperature, with no fabric conditioner. They also should not be tumble dried.
As always, we aren’t claiming to be perfect, we know there is a long way to go within the textile industry as a whole. However we’re making small changes as often as we can and these really do add up! Try just one of these and you will be making a conscious step towards the protecting the environmental impact of our industry and your clothes.
1B, Resnik, https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/19/17800654/clothes-plastic-pollution-polyester-washing-machine – 11/01/19 (13/11/19)
2 B, Resnik, https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/19/17800654/clothes-plastic-pollution-polyester-washing-machine – 11/01/19 (13/11/19)