As a society, we are constantly on the lookout for products that help reduce the negative impact we make on our environment. We see the damage we’ve done to natural habitats – oceans, forests, mountains – and we want to start turning the tide back in Mother Nature’s favour. So, today we’re chatting about an issue that has been plaguing our environment since the 1960s: microplastic. We’ll be talking about the dangers of continuing to allow microfibres and other microplastics to enter our oceans, earth and air as well as ways to reduce our impact when it comes to these tiny terrors.
What is microplastic pollution?
Microplastic pollution is everywhere. It floats in our oceans, it blows through the air, it embeds itself into our Earth and it infiltrates our bodies and the bodies of animals all over the world.
The term “microplastic pollution” refers to all the teeny tiny bits of plastic (under 5mm in length) that come from many sources, and the synthetic fibres that shed from man-made materials and clutter the natural environment we so desperately need to protect.
Once they are in the environment, they accumulate pollutants like heavy metals and then spread like wildfire. Microplastic pollution has been found in ice in the Arctic, in the deepest parts of our oceans and even in our foods, making it easy for them to make their way into our bodies.
In our oceans particularly, microplastic has been known to cause infections, reproductive issues and starvation in aquatic animals. Without even thinking twice, we are sending potentially species-ending pollutants out into the world for fish, coral, turtles and other cute creatures to ingest. What a horrible thought.
FACT: Larger plastic items can break down into microplastics with enough exposure to the sun’s rays, ocean waves and other external influences. Source
Where do microplastics come from?
Microplastics can come from a range of different sources. They are generally broken down into two different categories – primary microplastics and secondary microplastics.
Primary microplastics are plastic items that have purposely been manufactured at a very small size. An example of this would be synthetic microbeads in exfoliation cosmetics and abrasive cleaners. Microfibres are also included in this primary category – these are the tiny fibres that shed from our synthetic clothes and bedding when we do a load of washing.
Secondary microplastics are microplastics that break down from larger synthetic items. This includes polystyrene pieces from takeaway boxes and plastic bags that break down slowly.
FACT: Around 50% of the plastic produced worldwide is used only once and thrown away. Source
Why is microplastic bad for the environment?
Microplastic sucks. Seriously. Ok, so it’s useful when it comes to creating clothes and synthetic textiles like polyester, acrylic and nylon, but as the clothes break down and shed fibres over time, they are washed down drains, into oceans, streams and rivers that are abundant in wildlife.
It’s important to keep these synthetic fibres out of the natural world because when they enter oceans and other waterways, you may not see the effects of their pollution but it is definitely there being consumed by fish and aquatic life and spreading back into our households and our bodies.
Microplastics can cause significant issues and health conditions within animals (and potentially humans). They can also clog important waterways and embed themselves into the Earth, causing widespread pollution and plastic build-up.
FACT: An AIMS study recently showed that microfibres comprise 86% of microdebris in samples taken from the central Great Barrier Reef environment. Source
How do we stop microplastics polluting our environment?
There are a few different ways we can start working towards reducing the amount of microplastics that make their way into the environment.
- Reduce the number of single-use products you use
- Learn how to recycle properly
- Avoid buying clothing made of synthetic materials and instead choose items made of natural fabrics like linen, wool and bamboo
- Start using laundry products that support the reduction of microfibres like eco friendly detergents made from all-natural ingredients and innovative solutions like the Guppyfriend Washing Bag
- Support organisations that work to reduce microplastic pollution
Speaking of organisations that support microplastic waste reduction research, STOP! Microwaste is a German company that has been going to amazing lengths to get the word out and work towards a “plastic free nature”.
They’ve introduced some fantastic initiatives like the Stop! Plastic Academy, which works to inform people about microplastics and how to reduce our microplastic footprint. They’ve also introduced an amazing product to the world, as mentioned above: The Guppyfriend Washing Bag.
FACT: Synthetic textiles are one of the main sources of microplastic pollution and account for 35% of all microplastics. According to a study by the University of California at Santa Barbara, a city the size of Berlin releases a wash-related volume of microfibres equivalent to approx. 500,000 plastic bags - every single day. Source
What is a Guppyfriend Washing Bag?
The Guppyfriend Washing Bag is a “scientifically approved solution against microplastic pollution from washing.” In other words, it’s an environmentally friendly bag that you put your laundry items in each time you wash them. The purpose of the bag is to both reduce and filter harmful microplastics that shed from clothes and other garments made from synthetic materials with each and every wash.
This helps to stop the harmful fibres making their way into waterways, and back into our bodies by way of the fish and other marine life we catch and consume (if you eat seafood, of course). It also helps increase the lifespan of clothes due to the reduction of shedding. The fibres are held together for longer, making them stronger and less prone to wear and tear overall.
The bag is made from specially designed microfilter material that is more effective than the filters in our washing machines and treatment plants in catching these tiny pollutants. Microplastic fibres pass through general filters like these easily due to their shape and streaming properties. Guppyfriend tackles these fibres at the source.
Where can you buy a Guppyfriend Washing Bag in Australia?
Right here on Wear & Repeat, of course! I’m now stocking these awesome eco friendly laundry products so that you can feel better about washing your clothes. The Guppyfriend Washing Bag is best used with our sustainable eco laundry detergents as they are less abrasive than your mainstream laundry powders.
How to use a Guppyfriend Washing Bag
To use a Guppyfriend washing bag, you simply fill it with your synthetic (or natural) clothes, bedding, etc., pop it into your washing machine and wash as normal (in a wash no hotter than 40°C).
Then, when the wash is complete, collect the microfibres that have been caught in your guppy bag throughout the wash cycle and put them in the bin.
The bag is self-cleaning so there’s no need to wash it and its actually counter-productive to wash it under running water as this may damage the filaments.
It’s honestly just so simple to engage in eco friendly housekeeping practices like this! This product is an absolute game changer and I’m super excited to be able to supply it to Aussies all over the country who strive for a better, greener future.
Remember, our environment needs us! We MUST reduce microplastic pollution to create a better future!