Hand washing some of your clothes can reduce microplastics in the environment: study
Author: Tara De Boer
An overwhelming 9.5 billion tonnes of plastic was produced by the world in 2019, according to the Global Change Data Lab, a U.K. non-profit. While some efforts to reduce plastic waste are being made, such as through elimination of plastic bags at grocery stores, or the riddance of plastic straws by Starbucks, one unexpected contributor to the overwhelming amount of microplastics in the environment could be the way clothes are washed. A new study published in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal ES&T Water found that handwashing clothing made with plastic-fibres such as polyester and nylon releases less microplastics into the environment as opposed to using a washing machine.The researchers cleaned two types of fabric swatches, one made from 100 per cent polyester, and the other made up of 95 per cent polyester and 5 per cent spandex. They ran the fabrics through a washing machine and hand-washed them as well. They found that manually handwashing methods released significantly few plastic fibres. It’s all in the numbers: when the first fabric made completely of polyester was washed via machine, it shed an average of 23,723 microplastics, compared to 1,853 microplastic pieces shed on average when hand washed. That’s why a of team of researchers based in the U.S. and China sought to further explore the results of handwashing, according to the ACS study.