Over 1/3 of primary ocean microplastics come from washing textiles.

A quick glance at your clothing label will soon reveal that whether you’re wearing a t-shirt, dress, fleece or pair of cycling shorts, our clothes are increasingly made from synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic. These are actually plastic-based fabrics. 

Due to friction, when these fabrics are worn down and washed, they shed tiny strands of plastic less than 5mm long, called plastic microfibres. Like microbeads, they are a type of microplastic pollution which flow to rivers and oceans, may be eaten by marine life and can end up on our plates. Studies have found these fibres in our food, from mussels and table salt to honey and beer.

An estimated that half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres a year contribute to ocean pollution – the largest single source of ocean primary microplastics and 16 times more plastic pollution than microbeads from cosmetics (Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

Care for your clothes with #WhatsInMyWash

Research is in its early stages, but findings so far indicate that taking better care of our clothes and preventing them from wearing out can reduce the likelihood of microfibres shedding and entering our oceans. Join the #WhatsInMyWash campaign and pledge to take care of your clothes:

  1. Choose clothes which are more durable, you’ll get more wears from and which won’t end up in the bin. The UK already sends 300,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill every year (WRAP). Over time this clothing can break down into microplastics which can find their way into eco systems and often our oceans too.
  2. Wash clothes only when needed. Microfibres are released in the wash so if you can get another wear out of something, let it air instead.
  3. Wash clothes at a lower temperature (30 degrees C). This will prevent them from wearing faster which can lead to more microfibre release.
  4. Use a full load and wash on a shorter, gentler cycle; this reduces friction on your clothes which can cause microfibres to shred and clothes to wear.
  5. Avoid the tumble dryer, they may wear your clothes out faster, increasing the likelihood of microfibre release on the next wash. Your clothes will stay in shape for longer too.
  6. If you have a condenser tumble dryer the liquid collected may contain plastic microfibres - don't empty it down the sink.
  7. Show your support - take a photo of your clothing care label and share it with #WhatsInMyWash. Tell your friends that you're committed to doing your bit to reduce plastic pollution by caring for your clothes. We've created a sample post that you can share alongside your care label photo.

Spread the word

Find out more, visit the #WhatsInMyWash campaign website.

With thanks to Campaign for Wool for supporting the #WhatsInMyWash campaign.


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