By Ian Randall For Mailonline
Published: 19:00 BST, 16 September 2020 | Updated: 19:00 BST, 16 September 2020
Washing clothes pollutes the land with around 175,000 tons of synthetic fibres each year — on top of the microplastic pollution that enters the seas — a study has found.
The findings from US-based researchers could help find effective solutions to stop the spread of synthetic fibres, while expanding our understanding of their impact.
Less than five millimetres in length, microfibers are produced across every step of the garment fabrication process — and released when clothes are machine washed.
Washing clothes pollutes the land with around 175,000 tons of synthetic fibres each year — on top of the microplastic pollution that enters the seas — a study has found
'Large-scale removal of microfibers from the environment is unlikely to be technically feasible or economically viable, so the focus needs to be on emission prevention,' said Jenna Gavigan of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
'Since wastewater treatment plants don't necessarily reduce emissions to the environment, our focus needs to be reducing emissions before they enter the wastewater stream.'
Synthetics fabrics — such as polyester and nylon — are the most commonly used fibres in the textile industry, accounting for over 60 per cent of the materials used to produce clothes worldwide.
Around 15 per cent of all plastic is used to make synthetic fibres, chiefly for clothing.
While a lot of attention has been paid to plastic pollution in our oceans, less attention has been given to the amount being dumped on land, which is now higher.
Fibre-filled water is filtered at wastewater treatment plants after clothing is mechanically washed.
Most of the plastic pellets are captured along with so-called biosolid sludge — which is often then spread over cropland or buried in landfill.
In their study, the researchers combined data on the global production, consumption and release of plastics with the amount of microfibers released when washing clothes by hand and with a