Friday, 10 February 2012

Easy care, easy go? Synthetic fibres are here to stay...

Image source: http://australianmuseum.net.au

I've spent a fair bit of time looking into the minutiae of whether organic cotton is actually any more environmentally-friendly a fabric than recycled polyester.
When recycled, polyester is pretty much closed-loop, meaning you don't really need to put much else in besides an old polyester garment to make a new one. Even when produced organically, cotton has environmental impacts - needing land space and lots of water.

But when I read this story, it became clear that this whole polyester/cotton debate is null and void. Tiny filaments of synthetic fibres from our clothes are being washed into waterways and building up there. It's obvious when you think about it, although I never really have until now. During the laundry process fibres are going to get damaged and bits of them break off - that's where washing machine and tumble dryer (shame on you!) fluff comes from. But when your clothes are made from non-biodegradable plastic, those little fibres ain't going anywhere, ever

The fact that pieces (however small) of our clothes have been found in the bellies of fish, and then accumulating in their cells, is really quite dark. Darker still, there wasn't a single sample from this study (carried out around the world) which didn't contain microplastic - mostly fibrous remnants of polyester, nylon or acrylic.

On making this discovery, tests were carried out on the wastewater from washing machines, which found that a single polyester garment can shed 1,900 fibres per wash. Times that by all the polyester garms in the world, and all the washes they're put through in their lifetime and we could be in massive trouble.

Polyester is OFF the menu.