Botany Bay

Botany Bay

A couple of days ago I came across information that staggered me.

“Clothes and washing machines are one of the major sources of plastic pollution in the oceans. Every time we do the laundry, millions of tiny synthetic fibres are released into the water.”

I knew of the supposed water-dissolvable wet wipes that are causing havoc for Sydney Water because they do not dissolve in water despite what is written on the product label. 500-tonnes of wet wipes are manually removed from our sewerage system by Sydney Water every year. Imagine if this garbage went directly into our oceans.

I knew of micro-plastic beads that are entering the oceans from products like facial exfoliating scrubs, body wash, soaps, shampoos, makeup & even toothpaste. It seems like humans are attracted to products that sparkle.

I knew of the two Great Pacific Garbage Patches, also made up primarily of tones of micro-plastics suspended throughout the water column that have been brought together by the rotating ocean currents & winds.

I knew of plastic bags floating or moving through the seas being mistaken for food by turtles & other marine creatures. Once ingested the bag causes a slow death by blocking the digestive system. These plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down & while they are doing so, they break into smaller particles.

What I did not know about is that washing our clothes also has a diabolical impact on the environment. Synthetic clothes made out of acryclic, nylon & polyester release millions of non-degradable fibres into our washing water & most of these fibres make it out to the ocean.   Fish think these fibres are plankton, they eat them & then eventually, we eat the fish.

I am overwhelmed at how damaging to this planet human beings have become. Unfortunately, the above five issues are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the damage human beings are doing to the environment.

“One polyester fleece jacket sheds almost a million fibres per wash.

An acrylic scarf: 300,000 fibres.

Nylon socks: 136,000 fibres.”

Even though these issues are overwhelming, we can as individuals, always choose not to add to the environmental load.

There are things you can do to lessen the amount of fibres released in your wash cycle. These range from using washing liquid instead of powder, doing a short cycle wash & using fabric softener. I don’t want to entirely copy the information from the website, so to learn more about the issue & what you can do, see –

We can also rethink what we wear.

  • Bamboo grows quickly & is biodegradable.
  • Hemp also grows quickly & does not require pericides or fertilizer. It is also biodegradable.
  • 25% of pesticide use is used to grow cotton. Organic cotton does not include pesticide use.
  • Soy cashmire & soy silk is made from the leftovers of food production.
  • Wool, another product that does not need chemicals.
  • Tensel, which is made from wood pulp is also biodegradable.

Unfortunately, all the above still come with environmental issues. However, these are a better environmental choice when all the issues are put together. One other important option is recycled clothing. It is a good thing that vintage clothing is so popular.

As for the other issues mentioned above –

  • You can choose not to use plastic bags when shopping. It is estimated that it takes between from 20 to 1000 years for plastic bags to decompose. Make or buy your own fabric bags & take them with you when shopping.
  • Choose not to buy products that contain microbeads. A teaspoon of ordinary sodium bicarbonate mixed to a paste with water is an excellent exfolliant. It’s ultra-cheap too at a dollar or less for a box. You can find it in the bread-making aisle of the supermarket.
  • If you do use wet wipes, put them in the bin rather than flush them down the toilet.
  • Lastly, think about the plastic you buy, remembering that it will eventually end up in landfill or in our rivers, lakes & oceans. Plastic is estimated to take between 450 to 1,000 years to degrade & while it is breaking down it becomes smaller & smaller posing a serious danger to wildlife. Buy your products in glass when you can or shop where you can take glass jars to fill with what you want to buy.