If you’re looking to find more ways to reduce harmful impact on our world, something as simple as staying away from delicate wash cycles can help. Scientists did a study revealing that a lot more plastic microfibers are added into the environment when doing a delicate wash instead of a regular wash.
Researchers from Newcastle University performed tests using full-size washing machines to find that a delicate wash cycle uses twice as much water as a regular cycle, and as a result roughly 800,000 more microfibers get dislodged.
“Our findings were a surprise,” said the head of the research, Professor Grant Burgess, marine microbiologist. “You would expect delicate washes to protect clothes and lead to less microfibers being released, but our careful studies showed that in fact it was the opposite. If you wash your clothes on a delicate wash cycle the clothes release far more plastic fibers. These are microplastics, made from polyester. They are not biodegradable and can build up in our environment.”
This discovery nullifies the idea that a stronger, more intense washing cycle, which constantly changes direction and speed of the spin, deposits more microfibers into the wastewater. It seems that the amount of water used in the wash is what makes the difference when releasing fibers from the clothes.
“If the water volume is high, the water will bash the clothes around more than if less water is used,” according to Burgess. “The water forces its way through the clothing and plucks fibers of polyester from the textiles.”
What’s the problem with microplastics?
Annually, around 42 million tons of synthetic fibers are made by the clothing industry, most of which are utilized in the manufacturing of polyester items. Prior studies have indicated that washing synthetic apparel can result in the loosening of 500,000 to 6 million microfibers with each wash.
Not a lot of washing machines have adequate filters to draw out the microplastics from the wastewater, and so the fibers inevitably make their way through the water treatment facility before finally reaching the ocean. Scientist say that the microplastics are now present in life forms at every stage of the food chain, from plankton to the largest marine mammals. It has spread to the deepest trenches we’ve discovered, as well as the once immaculate Antarctic wilderness.