My head was left spinning the other day when I heard the news that microplastics were being deposited in the arctic by snow. I mean, WHAT? I know that a big part of people’s worry about the climate/environmental crises is that we all have absolutely no idea what, specifically we should be doing. So here are 5 things you can do that will have a direct impact on microplastic waste.
CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES
1/3 of all microplastic pollution comes from washing synthetic textiles like polyester, nylon, viscose, acrylic and elastane. This is because sewage treatment stations cannot filter them out (and when you imagine the kinds of things that sewage treatment CAN remove, that’s a pretty scary thought). It’s imperative that we stop buying synthetic textiles. Ideally, when we buy clothes, they should be made from natural, biodegradable fibres instead. It’s also important to note that a lot of ‘eco/sustainable’ fabrics like tencel and bamboo fibre may also contribute to the microplastic pollution – they are made from a type of cellulose that might not biodegrade. Fabrics that are guaranteed to biodegrade include linen, cotton, wool, hemp and silk.
Manufacturing any new fabric puts a huge strain on the environment in other ways, including chemical pollution and carbon emissions, so please don’t chuck out all your synthetic clothes and buy a whole new wardrobe (and don’t sweat if you simply can’t afford to buy natural fabrics, or have a uniform for work that you can’t change). For the synthetic clothes you already have you can buy a Guppyfriend Laundry Bag from Ethical Superstore (link) which will catch some of the microplastics, and allow you to dispose of them in a way that will pollute less – instead of directly into our waterways, they’ll go to landfill instead.
Am I talking about your clothes or your body? Actually I’m talking about everything. The less water you put down the drain, the less microplastics end up in our water. Wash your clothes less, and don’t tumble dry as this wears the fibres down making them release more fibres when you next wash them. Wash your body less (use a 100% cotton cloth to wash your bits every day if you need to) and don’t use a plastic shower puff or sponge – use a soft ramie puff (link) instead. Ditching flushable wipes is another big one – there are alternatives like sprays you can use with toilet paper. Also, wash your dishes in a dishwasher or switch to a biodegradable loofah (link) or natural fibre brush (link) instead of a plastic sponge or brush to do the washing up. Finally, microfibre cloths, plastic brushes, cleaning sponges and even cellulose sponges all produce microplastics too (when you rinse/wash them after use), so switch to cleaning with a cotton or hemp cloth (link), and for heavy duty cleaning, use a coconut scrubber (link).
REDUCE AND REUSE
As I mentioned above, the manufacturing industry is hugely culpable in the microplastic crisis, and the best way to stop industrial pollution is to stop increasing demand for new goods. Repair your socks when they spring a hole, repurpose an unwanted dress into a top or a bag, buy secondhand, cut up old sheets for cleaning – quite simply, before you buy something new, try to think of an alternative way of getting what you need first. It might not sound like fun, you might think I’m suggesting a return to the housewives and domestic servants of days past – but no. People of all genders should be doing this, and unfortunately, its the convenience culture that we rely on to make life easy that got us into this mess in the first place. If you aren’t a DIY-type person, you can ask for my hourly rate and I’ll fix your socks for you instead.
STOP BUYING BOTTLED
Bottled water is obviously an un-environmentally friendly choice, but if you’re concerned for the effect that microplastics could also be having on your health, steer even clearer of them than you were before, because 90% of bottled water contains microplastics that you will ingest.
If you want to learn more about the ways in which microfibres are destroying the planet, here are some resources: