It is no secret that the fashion industry itself has a huge impact on the environment. It is responsible for 20% of global wastewater, 10% of carbon emissions and huge amounts of waste. One garbage truck full of textiles ends up in landfill or is destroyed/ burned every single second. Not only that, but our clothing causes pollution with large amounts of microplastics in the environment.
Microplastic pollution. Our clothes release microplastics in the environment.
You may be wondering how clothing can contribute to the environment’s plastic problem. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic and textiles are the largest source of primary microplastics in the world. About 60% of material made into clothing is plastic. Polyester, nylon, polyamide and acrylic are all plastic materials very commonly used in clothing. If you see any of these materials on your clothing labels, those items of clothing contain plastic. Clothing made out of these materials release the most microplastics into the environment. These materials are especially found in fast fashion clothing. They are cheaper and therefore more affordable to buy and produce. Fast fashion brands typically make clothing based on temporary trends.
When these textiles are being manufactured, washed with your laundry, worn, dried and dumped in landfills, tiny plastic fibres detach from them and are released into the water and the air. 33% of all floating dust particles within the home are microfibers. These microfibers have been found in almost everything we eat and drink. Seafood, water and even salt have all been found to contain microplastics in them. They have deeply entered our food chain and microplastics in our bodies pose a great risk to our health.
The consequences of microplastics in the environment.
Microplastics are everywhere. They cause harm to plants, animals and humans. It is a huge contributor to the climate crisis and causes extinction to species, infertility in women and harm to foetuses. It is even carcinogenic! Microplastics is a rapidly increasing problem that is severely underestimated.
As these fibres are so small, they make it through filtration processes and end up in rivers and seas. Up to 700,000 fibres can come off our synthetic clothes in a single wash. Due to the small size of microplastics they can be ingested by marine animals, which can have a negative effect on the entire marine ecosystem. Microfibers have the ability to absorb and hold chemicals from water or sewage sludge. Some of these are toxic pesticides or chemical additives from the manufacturing process. These chemicals can leach from the plastic into the oceans or even go straight into the bloodstream of animals that ingest the microfibers causing all sorts of health problems to marine life.
These impacts can travel up the food chain, making their way into the food we eat. Mussels, clams and oysters can ingest over 11,000 microplastic particles annually! Since 2018, there has been a significant increase of studies investigating the impact of microplastics on humans. Even if you don’t eat sea food, there are many concerns that the microplastics found in the air and water can have negative impacts on human health. They can be damaging to organs and leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into the blood stream that are known to affect the immune system, growth and reproduction. Microplastics can even cause cancer.
Microplastics in the placentas of unborn babies
And for the first time, researches have said that it is a matter of great concern. Scientists have found that these microplastics could carry chemicals that could cause long-term damage or interfere with the foetus’s development and immune system. These particles found in the umbilical cord and placenta are likely to have been consumed or breathed in by the mothers and was even found in healthy mothers who had normal pregnancies and births. Because the placenta plays a crucial role in the foetus’ development, the presence of potentially harmful microplastics continues to be a major concern.
Humans consume close to one credit card worth of plastics weekly and because plastic never completely breaks down, it continues to build up in living organisms and become toxic.
Once microplastics end up in the ocean and air it is impossible to remove them. Therefore it is important that we prevent them getting there in the first place.
What can fashion brands do?
The fashion industry needs to take more responsibility for minimising the number of microfibers released into the environment. Fashion brands have the ability to make the most impact by taking this into consideration while manufacturing new clothing items. They can do this by:
- Using materials which have been tested to insure minimal release of synthetic fibres into the environment. Such as more dense fabrics or coating fabrics to prevent shedding.
- Ensuring their items are high quality and durable to avoid them ending up in landfill.
- Making long lasting clothing that is more likely to be recycled, passed down or given to someone else as opposed to being thrown away,
- Or simply making clothing out of natural and biodegradable materials.
Reducing our carbon footprints: What can you do?
- Invest in a microplastic filter for your washing machine. Alarming amounts of microplastics are shed during every single wash. Improved washing machine filters can capture microfibers and create an additional level of water filtration.
- Do less washing – Clothes shed micro plastic every laundry cycle: clothing items that have been washed many times will shed more microfibers than they did when they were new. Washing mindfully will help reduce our environmental impact and help our clothes last longer.
- Investing in only high quality, staple pieces for a more sustainable capsule wardrobe – buying high quality, staple pieces that won’t go out of fashion will ensure that your clothes will be worn again and again and therefore preventing waste and constantly buying new clothes to fit temporary trends.
- Avoid throwing clothing away – clothes swapping, handing down clothing or giving clothes to charity shops are all good ways to make sure that your clothing does not end up in landfills where they have the opportunity to leak microfibers while decomposing.
- Going greener and opting for natural fibres – Avoid clothing that includes polyester, nylon, polyamide and acrylic and invest in natural fabrics such as Silk, Cotton, Bamboo, Merino Wool and Linen. These materials are natural and do not contain plastic. They also waste less resources and involve very little chemicals in production. They are sustainable and biodegradable. Choosing organic materials for clothing will also limit the exposure to plastic fibres in your home.
Invest in sustainable brands
While there are things that consumers can do to limit the release of microplastics in the environment, all the effort should not be on the consumer. This is why it is important to support clothing brands that are doing their part in reducing pollution to the environment by using better materials and better methods of production. These companies are transparent with their values and also contribute to spreading awareness on environmental issues instead of hiding them and pretending that they don’t exist.
At Patra, we create long-lasting and sustainable clothing made from organic and natural materials such as bamboo, cotton, wool, silk and linen. These materials come from animals, trees or plants that can easily be replaced, raised and regrown using little resources. They also require no chemicals or pesticides in production. Our clothing is durable and long lasting enough to be passed down from generation to generation which helps to avoid waste. However, if they happen to reach the end of their life, they will decompose harmlessly in less than a year without having a negative impact on the environment.
Organic cotton is a great, guilt-free choice that uses no pesticides, less energy and less water. Its production is kinder to the soil, the air and the people who grow it.
Silk is a wonderful and sustainable natural fabric. Its production uses little water and it breaks down fast. Silk worms munch on the leaves of mulberry trees and produce silk. We source silk responsibly from regulated factories in China that use skilled, experienced employees.
Bamboo can grow 5cms in one day and a whole forest’s worth in only a few years needing no fertiliser. It grows back from its original root and does not need replanting. This means that it absorbs more carbon dioxide and releases more oxygen than most trees. It also rebuilds eroded soil.
Bamboo creates durable and amazing value clothing and towels because it is one of the strongest substances in the world.
All of our clothing also provide personal benefits such as being lightweight, comfortable, breathable, hypoallergenic and kind to skin. They naturally grow softer with every wash. You will have peace of mind knowing that you are not contributing to harming the environment, animals and humans. You will enjoy Patra’s skin friendly clothing for years to come, no matter the season. Shop our new collection now.