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How Your Washing Machine is Polluting The Oceans

How Your Washing Machine is Polluting The Oceans

A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology has found that washing machines are a major source of microplastic pollution in the oceans.

Bits of plastic contain potentially harmful ingredients which go into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume fish. Ingested microplastic can transfer and persist into their cells for months.

The scientists, led by Mark Anthony Browne, a biologist with University College in Dublin, looked for microplastic contamination along 18 coasts around the world and tracked down its likely source.

Much of the clothing people wear today is made with polyester, acrylic, rayon and various other synthetic textile materials. The scientists found that more than 1,900 fibers can rinse off of a single garment during a wash cycle, and these fibers look just like the microplastic debris they found on shorelines.

The authors suggest two possible solutions:

Washing machine manufacturers should look at ways to reduce the release of fibers into wastewater.

Research into methods for removing microplastic from sewage.

Another solution is to promote clothing made from natural fibers such as organic cotton, linen, wool, silk and hemp.

Watch AlJazeera report:

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92 comments

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1:45PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

I try to buy cotton. I'm in the same boat as most as far as the $ for organic cotton goes. I do buy organic food (wholesale staples) however. At least half of what I ingest is healthier. I just eat less!

5:55PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

At this point, I think our strongest defense is using a whole lot of common sense in what we purchase. We can cut way down: food, clothing, misc stuff, toys, etc. We don't need half or even a quarter of what most of us own. And try for more and more vegetables, fruit, beans, rice, and cut the animal products completely out or way down. Drive less if possible-combine errands, car pool. Some of us can do quite a bit, some just a little. But if we all try for a different look at what we purchase, consume and how we spend our energy, we will probably be better off. And so will the world.

3:17PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

I buy most of my clothes at yardsales, but I do take the time to check the tags. Most of the stuff in my closet is cotton. I doubt it's organic, but I buy secondhand and do the best I can there. I have some cotton-poly stuff still that have either been in there since middle school (I quit growing around then) and some that were hand-me-downs from my gran, and since I don't replace clothes until they wear out I just wear those less often. Actually, a lot of people could do with buying fewer clothes. Mine take up half a closet (in a mobile home, so not even a big fancy walk-in), plus a couple drawers for socks and undies.

And for heaven's sake people, I feel bad enough buying cotton that's probably not organic, but at least I don't buy that greenwashed bamboo rayon! Read up on it! I'm sure there are other articles, but just for a start here's the FTC consumer alert!

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt160.shtm

11:32AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

I wish organic cotton was cheaper so everybody could afford it. I have a few organic cotton shirts and bamboo socks and I know how expensive they are.

9:13AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

E' una cosa spaventosa.

7:34AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

It seems an easy choice - only use natural fabrics but as some of the comments posted have highlighted it's never that simple. Natural fabrics are more expensive and some people will never be able to afford them. Many of our Economy's are built on mass consumerism so what happens when people stop buying stuff,people lose their jobs. Population is another issue entirely, some people argue there are simply too many of us, others say its not the size of the population but the greed of some of the so called more advanced countries. Some would agree to limit the number of children they have, others for religious reasons would refuse. Every decision we make has ramifications for someone somewhere, how do we get enough of a consensus on any of the issues to manage the changes that may need to be made to sustain mankind into the future and that's another issue. Should we be doing anything we can to ensure our survival at the expense of other species and the planet or just accept the inevitability of our extinction?

5:43AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

We can spend a lifetime on guilt trips like the plastic residue that rinses off clothes. For each good thing we do, another lousy problem pops up. How are we to go on living like this? I will not purchase any item made in China--that takes care of my quality control issues. Since I don't support the practice of cruelty in wool shearing, wool is not an option for me or my family. We buy mostly all cotton clothes, but we haven't bought anything new in over 2 years because of a financial downturn. I see malls with cars parked sideways because thousands of shoppers are desperate to buy something, anything. Many people I know buy something new to wear every week. It might be cheap and they certainly don't need it, but for some shopping is a disease. Target and Walmart offer crap made for smaller (as in size 0) bodies, usually from some synthetic material. And people buy it as if it will run out of stock. If we think before we buy, we don't need 25 white blouses and 20 pairs of pants. I think desperation shopping is a way to keep busy and ignore the problems we need to face and tackle in our society. If we put as much energy into choosing our politicians as we do choosing a swimsuit, we could elect honest people to help find solutions to problems we think are overwhelming or impossible to solve. Stop spending on crap; start thinking about our future, or whether we even deserve a future.

4:13PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

Hi Vicky, i sympathize with your remark about "HIGH PRICED Organic Cotton, Hemp" etc. I call it GREEN GREED. Similar to costs for Windpower and Solar arrays. Way overpriced and no where the infrastructure investment of a Hydro dam, Coal fired power plant or excessively costly Nuclear plant.
If the United States would allow Hemp production which was thriving in the pioneer days, almost a mandatory crop. The price would come down, but there is opposition because of the relationship to the marajuana plant. It does not require Herbicides, and grows in substandard soils. ALSO the DURABILITY of clothing far exceeds cotton.
So again we see excess consumerism, Henry Ford had hemp panels in the Model T. There is a plant in Peterborough which makes plastic car panels. Its operated for maybe 25 years and half the workers have suffered from cancer from inhaling chemicals off-gassing.

www.healthycar.org ( heal thy car )

I have not researched this for a long time but i think Big Chem / Oil was behind this demise. It would be of benefit to the Agricultural sector creating a new Industry with its spinoffs, milk, fiber, rope, oil etc.

4:10PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

scary

12:59PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

it's bad, but I don't have money for organic cotton, etc.

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