Clothes play a big part of our lives, they represent our identity and make us who we are! Unfortunately, a high majority of clothes worldwide are likely to contain plastic. In fact, most new fabrics are made of plastic – up to 64%
of them. Every time we wash these types of clothes they shed millions of plastic microfibers into our waterways.
How is that happening? When high temperatures are used for a full wash on your washing machine, the tumbling and churning action of the clothes in the drum cause the elasticity in the clothes to weaken. During each wash, the plastic microfibers detach from our clothes and go into the wastewater. The wastewater then goes to sewage treatment facilities, however, unfortunately most do not have microplastic filters to sieve out the plastic.
Plastic microfibers (tiny shards that range from 3-5mm) are harmful because they do not break down and can end up in waste water channels that impact the oceans. Research has shown that microplastics damage marine life by reducing growth, affecting body tissue growth, and inevitably also affecting human beings. Textiles are the largest known source of marine microplastic pollution. It’s estimated to leak about 2.2 million tons
of microfibers entering the ocean every year. However we can be part of the solution, and in these small but meaningful steps, we provide tips on how best to handle our clothes to reduce our impact on the ocean and planet.
Choosing Clothes Consciously
The next time you are considering refreshing your wardrobe, consider clothes made from natural sources such as bamboo or 100% cotton. As a rule of thumb, if you can verify that the clothes are made purely from living resources, they are unlikely to have synthetic additions. Materials like linen come from the flax plant, bamboo, hemp, jute, rammie (Chinese grass), Kapok (one of Singapore’s heritage trees
) and are good options to consider.
It’s important to also check clothing labels which indicate what our clothes are made out of. When looking at labels, if you notice materials like polyester, acrylic, lycra, nylon, spandex, polyester fleece, elastane or polyamide, or details of glitter and sequins, these are most likely to have elements of plastic in their production. Truthfully, most of our activewear, winter wear and even intimate wear are made from these materials, making it more difficult to swap out for organic options.
Washing and Caring For Clothes
There’s no need to trash your existing wardrobe of clothes made with synthetic materials. You can start by caring for and washing them in more sustainable ways.
Singapore is a humid country, but that doesn’t mean all clothes need to be washed immediately after being worn. Air your worn clothes, or possibly spray it with a solution of part vinegar and water
to remove any smells. Doing laundry less is one way to practice conscious cleaning.
Wash your clothes in cold water, or keep it at 30 degrees to prevent damage to clothes in the long run. Opt to line dry your clothes to dry, especially under the hot sun in Singapore. When washing a full load of clothes, you could also opt for a guppyfriend bag, which is a fine mesh bag that prevents microplastics from escaping into the waterways.
If you have yet to buy a washing machine, consider renting a front loading washing machine. The new Microplastic Filter
made with at least 50% recycled plastic, has a cartridge with a thin mesh filter that catches the microplastic fibers as they are released from synthetic clothing in the washing process. Browse front loading washing machines on Levande here
Starting to care for your clothes begins with how you shop and ends with how you store your clothes. The middle portion is where the washing is. No one part of the process is more important than the other, as sustainability is a consistent series of actions towards caring for yourself, and the planet.
Read more: Sustainability in action: Better living 2030