Fashion’s immense contribution to plastic pollution is often overlooked. Unlike natural materials like cotton, plastics do not break down. Instead, they break up into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming what is known as “micro-plastics,” which are often about one fifth the size of a human hair. It’s these micro-plastics that can be found in fabric used in apparel production.
“Washing one synthetic fleece jacket releases as many as 250,000 micro-fibers,” says Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, founder and chief executive Lincoln Sarnoff Consulting. “And because they’re so small we can’t capture them through wastewater treatment … sending about one million tons of these into the ocean every single year.”
Within fashion, use is also on the rise, says Lincoln Sarnoff. By 2030, 70 percent of all fabric fibers are projected to be from plastics. Today, the industry is shedding nearly 200,000 tons into the ocean. To minimize the issue designers can replace synthetic fabrics with natural ones, such as organic cotton and consumers can wash clothes less often or wash them by hand.
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This article was first published by Tamison O’Connor at businessoffashion.com (2018-11-29).