How washing your clothes contributes to plastic waste, and how you can stop it.


By now, most eco conscious people know that plastic bottles, straws, cups, bags and toothbrushes are all contributing to the demise of our oceans and the contamination of our food chain. But what a lot of people don’t know is how everyday acts like washing your clothes can have a dramatic effect on the planet too.


I know what you’re thinking…. “Oh no, this hippy blogger is going to suggest hand-washing my clothes in the local river isn’t he?”

Well… depending on where you live that very river might be filled with the micro-plastics that this article is designed to reduce. But no, I’m not going to suggest hand-washing your clothes. Don’t worry. Read on.

A 12-month study led by Plymouth university investigated the effects of washing synthetic clothing using a variety of different detergents and fabric softeners. The researchers used an electron microscope to analyse typical washing cycles and see how many micro-plastic fibres were released.

The research found that “laundering an average washing load of 6kg could release an estimated 137,951 fibres from polyester-cotton blend fabric, 496,030 fibres from polyester and 728,789 from acrylic” source

So what happens to these micro-plastic fibres?

Microfibres end up in sewage plants and are captured as part of sewage waste. The others head into our rivers and eventually our oceans and they are now, quite alarmingly found worldwide in such remote places as the Arctic, with scientists recently finding up to 12,000 micro-plastic particles per litre of sea-ice.


More research is needed on the effect of microplastic fibres on our oceans and our food chain. But researchers believe that these fibres have the potential to poison our food chain and cause significant damage to marine life.

Omg… but what can I do?

In short, shop consciously. There are plenty of stylish fashion brands out there that do all the leg work so that you don’t have to. My girlfriend shops at a great website called People Tree. They provide affordable, stylish clothing using only sustainable, organic materials and they stick to the principles of fair-trade throughout their business.

Not only are their clothes sustainable and ethically produced. But they are high quality and stylish too. Okay, I admit, you won’t find the type of bargains offered at H&M or Primark. But your clothes will last longer, look better and you won’t be putting up to 700,000 microplastic fibres in the ocean every time you do your weekly wash.