It may come as a surprise to think of the clothes you’re wearing at the moment as sources of ocean pollution. But a lot of garments are made of plastics such as polyester and acrylic, and whenever you do laundry, many of these fabric threads end up in our deep blue seas.

Here are the unfortunate numbers:

[Imogen Napper, a PhD student at Plymouth University,] and Prof Richard Thompson study marine microplastics – fragments and fibres found in the ocean surface, the deep sea and the marine food chain.

“Laundry-science” has revealed that an average UK washing load – 6kg (13lb) of fabric – can release:

  • 140,000 fibres from polyester-cotton blend
  • nearly half a million fibres from polyester
  • more than 700,000 fibres from acrylic

That is from every load of synthetic laundry from every UK washing machine. “A lot more fibres were released in the wash than we expected,” Ms Napper says. … Changes need to happen “at the design stage”, [Prof Thompson says; better, harder-wearing and less “disposable” clothing would last longer and be good for the environment.

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