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Synthetic clothing a major ocean pollutant

A new report argues that synthetic clothing should be designed in such a way that it it sheds fewer fibres. The report also suggests that invisible plastic particles washed off synthetic clothes are the main source for marine plastic pollution – a claim which has been supported by several other pieces of research in recent years. The report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - Microplastics in the Oceans: a Global Evaluation of Sources – suggests that by far the largest proportion of plastic particles in the ocean stem from the laundering of synthetic textiles and the abrasion of tyres while driving. Invisible plastic particles washed off synthetic clothes are the main source for marine plastic pollution. By far the largest proportion of plastic particles in the ocean stems from the laundering of synthetic textiles and the abrasion of tires while driving. Daily activities, such as washing clothes and driving, significantly contribute to the pollution choking oceans, with potentially disastrous effects on the rich diversity of life within them, and on human health.

So the strategy to tackle ocean plastic pollution must go beyond the focus on reducing plastic waste. Solutions must include product and infrastructure design as well as consumer behavior. Consumers can act by choosing natural fabrics over synthetic ones. Synthetic clothing should be designed in such a way that it sheds fewer fibers.

Synthetic textiles are the main source of primary micro plastics in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The annual consumption of fiber for apparel amounts to 69.7 million tons globally. Synthetic fibers represent almost two-thirds of this consumption. The majority of synthetic fibers are consumed in developing economies. In these economies, consumers buy a larger proportion of synthetic textiles than in developed economies.

 
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