Saturday, 8 July 2017

Dirty laundry: Are your clothes polluting the ocean?

In an indoor "Manchester-drizzle-simulating" rain room at the University of Leeds, and in a laundry lab in Plymouth, research is revealing the unexpected environmental cost of the very clothes on our backs.
"Not many people know that lots of our clothes are made of plastic," says Imogen Napper, a PhD student at Plymouth University, "polyester, acrylic."
Ms Napper and Prof Richard Thompson study marine microplastics - fragments and fibres found in the ocean surface, the deep sea and the marine food chain.
And in a recent lab study, they found that polyester and acrylic clothing shed thousands of plastic fibres each time it was washed- sending another source of plastic pollution down the drain and, eventually, into the ocean.
"My friends always make fun of me because they think of marine biology as such a sexy science - it's all turtles, hot countries and bikinis," says Ms Napper.
"But I've been spending hours washing clothes and counting the fibres."
It might not be exotic, but this painstaking "laundry-science" has revealed that an average UK washing load - 6kg (13lb) of fabric - can release:
  • 140,000 fibres from polyester-cotton blend
  • nearly half a million fibres from polyester
  • more than 700,000 fibres from acrylic-read more

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