New Study Quantifies How Much Microplastic Clothing Sheds And It's A Galactic Amount

by Rudy Sanchez on 10/19/2020 | 2 Minute Read

New research conducted in California raises additional concerns over the use of synthetic fibers in clothing, providing a picture of how much microplastic gets introduced into the environment. As these garments shed tiny fibers in the laundry, small bits of plastic flow into the oceans, uncaptured. 

A study commissioned by the Nature Conservatory in California, conducted by the University of California, Santa Barbara, and shared exclusively with The Guardian before being peer-reviewed or published, has found that garments shed a whopping 13.3 quadrillion fibers into California through washing annually—that’s 13 followed behind 15 digits, or 13,300,000,000,000,000. That figure is about 638 times larger than the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an indicator of the total economic output. The number of fibers introduced annually to just California is also approximately 130,000 times more pieces of plastic than the estimated number of stars in the Milky Way.

Editorial photograph

Even clothing made with recycled or recaptured plastic water bottles or ocean waste will shed these micro-sized threads of plastic, and there is no single solution to preventing the fibers from reaching the wild, and ultimately, into us.

Researchers suggest that multiple solutions are required, including designing fabrics that shed less material in the wash, better lint catching technology in home appliances, and setting up leak-free capture and storage of these materials at wastewater facilities. 

“When you look at fishing nets or even other types of plastic, there are innovative ways to reuse or reduce these materials, so we have to keep looking for innovative solutions,” Alexis Jackson, fisheries project director at the Nature Conservancy in California, told The Guardian.

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