What are microplastics? + how to avoid them

what are microplastics

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Microplastics. It’s estimated that there are about 51 trillion pieces of microplastics in our oceans. Some say there are as many as there are stars in the sky. Recent studies have even found them in rainfall and the arctic snow. 

So What are microplastics?

They are itty bitty pieces of plastic about 5mm or smaller. These pieces are a huge problem, despite their size. They’re come from places you’d least expect them and end up in our oceans, the water we drink and the bellies of animals and in turn, the meat we eat. Especially seafood. 

Most clothing, especially fast fashion is made up of synthetic materials that are made from plastic. Meaning there is probably plastic in the clothes you’re wearing right now. When these cheap fabrics are washed they release thousands of microplastics back into our oceans, lakes and rivers. 

But they don’t just come from our clothing (though that is a huge source). They are also found in cosmetics, skin care and even tires.

So with a problem this big, yet so tiny it can seem difficult to avoid them. 

How to avoid microplastics when washing:

1. Wash in cold water

It’s generally not a great idea to wash your clothes in hot water. It’s extremely damaging to the fabrics and causes the threads to split and release excess microplastics. It also uses a lot more energy.

2. Stick to a liquid detergent

Powders and balls can act like a scrubbie and pull at the threads even more.

3. Wash your clothes less

Contrary to popular belief, your clothes don’t need to be washed as often as you think. One of the best way to preserve your clothing and to prevent microplastics from getting out would be to wash them less.

4. Hang to dry or on low tumble

Hanging is the best option if you’re able too as it produces less waste. If you don’t have the space, dry your clothes on a low setting. 

5. Use a cora ball 

A cora ball is a device that is made from 100% recycled plastic that catches the microfibers that come off of your clothing in the wash. Simply throw it in with each load and reduced the microplastic pollution significantly! 

Related: Zero waste laundry routine

How to reduce microplastic elsewhere:

1. Avoid products with microbeads

Namely exfoliants. Look for ingredients like “polyethylene” or “polystyrene” in your skin care and cosmetic products.

2. Buy more natural fabrics

Try to buy fabrics like organic cotton, silk or wool. Synthetic materials like fleece, polyester and rayon contain microplastics.

3. participate in beach/community pickups

We can reduce our microplastic pollution significant;y but there will still be microplastics out there. To go the extra mile, try participating in community or beach cleanups and look for those itty bitty pieces. 

4. Say no to single use plastics

While not all single use plastic is a microplastic, it’s safe to say that all plastic is bad. Even shopping bags and straws have the potential to turn into microplastics especially when left out in harsh environments.

what are microplastics

We all do laundry (I hope) and we all come across things in our everyday lives that have the power to reduce the amount of microplastics that pollute our world.

I hope this post gave you a few ideas on just how to do that!

As always, don’t forget to share this post and follow me on Instagram for daily ethical fashion and low waste living inpso!

 

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