Oil-based fibres are used to produce synthetic fabrics such as nylon or polyester. However, manufacturing, washing and drying these manmade materials makes them shed pieces called microfibres. Microfibres are fragments of fibres smaller than 5 mm that can break down into even smaller nano-sized particles. Too small to be caught by our current wastewater management systems, they end up entering ecosystems, creating negative impacts for wildlife, and eventually even making their way back to our plates.
Around 1 load of washing containing synthetic materials releases around 700,000 of these microplastics. However, we don’t need to go back to using laundry boards and soap just yet. Here, Research Assistant Evie Crouch takes you through the ways we can make our laundry routine more plastic free and sustainable…
1. Use products that mitigate microplastics harm
Taking inspiration from the way coral is able to accumulate nutrients in flowing water, the Cora ball is designed to collect microfibers in your washing machines and prevent them flowing into our waterways. Once your wash is done, take out the little microfibre clumps and put them in the bin along with your lint from your dryer (for now the bin is much better than your nearest river).
Although this option is relatively cheap, the downside of the cora ball is that it is the least effective option of the 3, as it has been found to capture 26% of microfibres.
Thses can be purchased in the UK from rainbowbrands.co.uk
The Guppy bag takes a different approach whereby clothes are places into the guppy bag which captures microfibres and locks them in the bag. This means that any fibres that break free from fabrics can be easily removed and disposed of.
The guppy bag is the cheapest option we’ve found and its also very effective, capturing an average of 87% of microfibres
These can be purchased in the UK via the RSPB website online shop
Microplastic filter attachment
Through planetcare’s sustainable business model, their microplastic filter is part of a completely closed loop system, making sure that microfibres aren’t released into the environment. At £52 the microplastic filter is slightly more expensive, however it has been proven to be the most effective microplastic laundry solution, with studies finding it was able to stop up to 90% of microfibres!
These can be purchased via planetcare.org
2. Use an Ecoegg
An alternative way to make your washing routine more sustainable, is by using the Ecoegg Laundry Egg, mineral based clothes washing system that works without the use of chemicals. The pellets are made up of friendly biodegradable chemicals that will both clean and soften your clothes. The surfactants in the pellets are able to lift dirt away from fabrics because one end of the molecule is attracted to water, while the other end is attracted to dirt and grease. Meanwhile, the physical outer cases will also help remove dirt from your clothes, which we think is pretty neat.
3. Alter your washing habits
However, in order to reduce the chances of microplastic release in the first place, you can wash synthetic clothes less frequently and for a shorter duration. Only running full loads at low temperatures will also help you reduce microplastic shedding and help save energy at the same time.
Then finally, if you have the space, you could cut out tumble dryers completely. Switching to a clothes horse will not only prevent extra further microplastics being shed, but it will also help save you a lot of energy, especially over this winter where energy bills have sky rocketed.
Have we left off something here? Let us know what you use to make your washing routine sustainable in the comments below!