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Small Plastics, Big Problem

by Joshua Sailo

by Victoria Rainbolt

Devika Jajoo

Posted on 04 June 2017

Most of us wear synthetic fabrics like polyester every day. Our dress shirts, yoga pants, and even underwear are all increasingly made of synthetic materials — plastic, in fact— because of their stretchiness.

But these synthetic fabrics, from which 60% of all clothing on earth is made, have a big hidden problem.

It’s a plastic manufactured from crude oil (an energy-intensive process). Even though some manufacturers are adding recycled polyester, often sourced from plastic bottles, to their fabrics, these have the same environmental repercussions as new polyester, which researchers are only just starting to understand.

What we know now is that every wash releases plastic microfibers into waterways and these persist indefinitely, contaminating lakes and oceans and getting ingested by animals and, indirectly, by us.

As per an article in The New York Times:

“Even if these microplastics are trapped at filtration plants, they can end up in sludge produced by the facilities, which is often sent to farms to be used as fertilizer. From there, the fibers can make their way into other water systems, or into the digestive tracts of animals that graze on the fertilized plants.”

Watch the following video from The Story of Stuff Project to find out more:

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