10 Ways to stop feeding our clothes to the Ocean

It’s safe to say that nobody wants their rubbish to end up in the Ocean, but did you know it happens every-time we use our washing machines at home??

Yes, that’s right — washing our shirts, tea towels and linen contributes directly to marine litter, which has negative consequences for wildlife, economies and human health. Research has found that upwards of 700,000 microscopic fibres could be shed from our clothing every time we do a load of laundry in our domestic washing machines. What’s worse, much of those fibres won’t be picked up in our sewage treatment system, and will end up straight in our waterways.

Most of us who are conscientious try to limit our plastic consumption everyday by avoiding single use cups and containers, but we often overlook how detrimental our clothing can be to the planet.

Also it is important to note that all clothes shed fibres regardless of the material they are made of. Research is now showing that natural fibres are prevalent and can persist in the environment for a very long time, along with the already well published synthetics.

This means that what has often been described as a micro plastic problem is actually a microfibre problem as they can all attract harmful pollutants already present in the environment.

Given all the anti-plastic campaigns happening around the world, it seems pretty crazy that the issue of microfibre isn’t spoken about and that it isn’t making headlines.

So, how can we take responsibility for this marine litter?

To start with, we need to acknowledge that this isn’t just a clothing problem. It’s also the responsibility of washing machine manufacturers to update their products to address today’s pressing environmental issues. For example, our everyday washing machines could be re-engineered to include filtration technology to prevent microfibre release.

Also, the textile and clothing industry need to be focusing on solutions that shed less microfibres. Here are some examples that we use at LUCKE apparel that have shown promise:

  • Polygiene uses technologies that are applied to textiles that make them stay fresh, reduce odour and reduce viruses. Ultimately reducing the regularity of washing
  • Cora Ball prevents microfibres from breaking off your textiles and collects them into fuzz.

While there are industry-specific steps that need to be taken, realistically, these changes won’t be made overnight. We as consumers need to change our behaviour, take responsibility and stop expecting someone else to come up with a magic bullet solution…

Here’s 10 simple ways you can play your part and help keep our oceans clean:

1. Wash your clothes less — Spot clean more

This one is simple. The less you wash your clothes, the less they will shed these microfibres. We’re all guilty of washing our clothing more than we need to, and spot cleaning is a great alternative.

2. Avoid fast fashion & keep clothes for longer

New clothes shed significantly more than older clothes. This a ‘double whammy’ when you couple it with the other issues associated with fast fashion. When you buy high quality clothing, they last longer and can shed significantly less.

3. Reduce your water + wash time

Water is a major factor in the release of microfibres. The less water used during your wash cycle means less time interacting with your clothes. The result? A significant reduction in shedding..

4. Use line not tumble dry

We all live busy lives, but spending a few extra moments to hang your clothes on the line makes a big impact. This is another ‘double whammy’ — not only does it decrease shedding, but it will save you on your power bill and reduce your carbon footprint. Not to mention, it’s better for the durability of your clothes! A win-win for you and our oceans.

5. Use liquid detergent

Powder is harder on your clothes as it ‘scrubs’ and loosens more microfibres. Stick with liquid.

6. Reduce spin speed

The higher the spin speed, the more friction between the items, resulting in more shedding.

7. Use colder wash temperatures

Warmer wash temperatures release more fibres and can damage your clothes.

8. Purchase or use a front-loading washing machine

These cause much less shed than top loaders.

9. Wash full loads

When your washing machine is full, there’s less friction between items and therefore less microfibres released.

10. Use a Cora Ball

According to a recent paper published by the University of Plymouth, adding a Cora Ball to your load of washing prevents 31% of the microfibers per load of washing downstream (Napper et. al., 2020)

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