Our ever-expanding addiction to plastic seemingly knows no bounds. Plastic’s insidious presence in our everyday lives is impossible to avoid. Food and drink containers, packaging, furniture, clothing, computer components, toys, beauty products, and even toothpaste are just some of the millions of plastic products consumers encounter every day.
A Growing Concern
Year on year more plastic is produced, used, and discarded. Huge areas of our oceans are filled with plastic. The largest of these even have names - perhaps the most well-known is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that was discovered in 1985. Estimates of the area covered by this patch vary in size from 270 thousand square miles up to nearly 6 million square miles. Even the smallest of these estimations is an area the size of Texas.
The environmental impact of such widespread plastic debris is abundantly clear, but so far research has mainly focused on larger plastic items. Widely recognized problems for wildlife are associated with entanglement, ingestion, suffocation and general debilitation and/or death.
In contrast, microplastics (the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration classifies microplastics as being less than 5mm in diameter) are not as conspicuous and thus have not received the same amount of attention. Particles of this size are available to a much broader range of species and therefore could potentially pose a much more serious threat.
Are Our Clothes Culprits?
Clothing is one of the worst culprits for microplastic pollution. Studies have shown that many synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon and acrylics can be shed from clothing and persist in the environment. One study found that a fleece jacket can release 250,000 fibres per wash!
An estimated 5 trillion microplastic and plastic fibre particles are already in our oceans, and recent studies seem to indicate that this estimate is grossly inaccurate. Researchers from the University of Manchester studied 10 rivers in the Greater Manchester area and the worst of these rivers was found to have over 500,000 microplastic particles per square meter of the river bed. From this relatively tiny area, and in just 1 year they estimated 43 billion particles had been released into the oceans.
It isn’t just our rivers and oceans that are polluted either: 83% of the tap water tested worldwide has been found to contain microfibres from synthetic materials. Even bottled water is affected. Tests were conducted on 250 bottles of water from 9 countries and nearly all contained microplastics. One of the researchers, Sherri Mason, said “It's really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and its pervading water - all of these products that we consume at a very basic level”
“We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic and I am very worried that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late,” said Prof Roland Geyer, from the University of California and Santa Barbara.
Walk with Us
With this in mind, perhaps it is finally time for us to break our plastic habit.
More and more people are choosing natural, biodegradable, planet-friendly materials like wool and cotton, both for their comfort and for the sake of the environment.
Here at SHEPHY®, we know change happens one step at a time. Let’s walk our talk.