how-the-sea-pollutes-each-washing-of-clothesMore than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers are released in each cycle of washing machines, with many of them overtaking sewage plants and reaching rivers and oceans, according to a study by the University of Plymouth. The research team studied what happens when different synthetic materials are washed in domestic washing machines, with different combinations of detergents. From the results it can be deduced that acrylic fabrics are the most polluting, since in each wash they release almost 730,000 particles, five times more than mixed polyester and cotton fabrics and 1.5 times more than polyester.

A previous study from 2011 found that microfibers account for 85% of human waste in the coasts. The impact of microfiber contamination is not fully known, but studies suggest it has the potential to poison the food chain, accumulate in the digestive tracts of marine animals, reduce the ability of organisms to absorb energy from the food, and to alter the behavior of crustaceans.

According to the person in charge of the Plymouth research, Richard Thompson, more work is needed to know the effect of other factors, such as the duration of washing, the design of washing machine filters or the spin speed. However, he also states that “the industry needs to think about fabric design to ensure that emissions are minimized.”