Clean Sailors crew mate, Libby, presents at COP26
Clean Sailors crew member, Libby, took to COP26 this week, joining the stage with the University of Manchester on a seminar on sustainable fashion. While many of us may not deem ourselves to be fashionistas, Libby’s talk was aimed at anyone who wears clothes...!
What we wear is having a huge impact on our marine environment due to microfibre shedding. The very act of walking in our clothes, or washing them, puts our clothes and the fibres under stress which causes small fibres to break off. This is called 'microfibre shedding'. As these fibres are too small to see, it's easy not to realise it is happening, or why it is so damaging for our environment.
It is estimated that 20 minutes of walking can generate 400 microfibres per gram of clothing, and that one pair of jeans can create 160,000 microfibres every time they are washed!
Unfortunately, 60% of our clothing worldwide is made from synthetic materials (such as polyester, nylon and acrylic) which are created from the same polymers (building blocks) as plastics - these tiny fibres are in fact microplastics.
As microplastics, they do not disappear or degrade and so build up in our environment, get accidentally ingested by sea life and have even been found in most major organs of us humans.
The process of making our clothing, either with natural or synthetic fibres, includes the use of a cocktail of chemicals for the clothing to reach the desired colour and feel. This means that when these fibres enter our marine environment, they leach out these toxic chemicals into the oceans. This problem is so vast that microfibres from synthetic textiles is the largest contributor of microplastics into our oceans - a staggering impact that our everyday lives are having on the oceans we love.
Every drain leads to the sea which is why when washing our clothes, it is important to think about what is coming off them and heading into our waters.
Washing clothes at a low temperature, washing similar fabrics together and ensuring we fill our washing machines up are just three simple steps that can reduce the friction and stress our clothes are put under, thus reducing the microfibre emissions from our clothing.