SALE SHOPPING? DO YOU NEED ANOTHER SYNTHETIC BARGAIN?

You’ve swapped over your plastic bottles for a slick new reusable, said a hearty “no, thanks” to every potential straw, and even started remembering your grocery bags when you do your weekly shop. Like me, you might be asking, what’s next? 

About a year ago, I decided I want a nice woolly sweater. You know, one that keeps you toasty warm but also makes you look a little bit like a sheep-human hybrid. This jumper would solve all my problems of being cold every time I stepped outside. I had high hopes. I started looking for this sweater, hitting up all of the high-street favourites. It was here, mid-sweater-search, that I noticed something.  Everything was made with acrylic, polyesters, nylon –– the closest wool was standing in a field outside of town. Synthetic fabrics were everywhere. 

And it got me thinking, do I really understand what I’m purchasing? Every time I casually pick up a new dress, or a new pair of gym tights, am I actually just buying pure plastic? And goodness, plastic bottles don’t break down –– what about this 100% acrylic top that I’m wearing? With a little research, I found that it was pretty dire. Not only were my clothes essentially un-biodegradable plastic, but I was introducing thousands of micro-plastics into the water system with every single wash. 


How does that work? 

Research conducted around the world has revealed that 85 percent of microfibres discovered along beach shorelines come from human-made materials used in clothing. Polyester, acrylic, nylon –– you know, all the fibres that make your shirts or jumpers crackle with electricity when you slip them over your head. 

The same research revealed that a single synthetic garment can release up to 1,900 individual microfibres into the washing water, and eventually into our beautiful oceans. Water filtration plants can’t pick up about 10% of these fibres due to their teeny-tiny nature and they sadly are contributing a huge amount to the micro-plastics issue. 

The bulk of our clothes and accessories are made with synthetic fabrics. In fact, in just fifty years, we’ve increased our polyester consumption by almost nine times. That’s millions of tonnes of plastic that’s finding its way into our wardrobes, onto our bodies, and eventually into our washing machines.

It doesn’t stop with washing though! Even if you give that top away to a charity shop when it’s a little worn or you’re just over it, it’s still an item of plastic. Just like a plastic bottle or a pesky straw, it won’t break down anytime soon. 


What can we do? A few things actually! 

  • Use a laundry bag. Washing your clothes in a laundry bag can catch the microfibres from your clothes. Make sure you find one that is made from sustainable eco-friendly materials like recycled PET bottles. They’re cheap, easy and you can start using them straight away. Stay Wild stock the GuppyFriend bags. Simply wash any synthetic fabrics in the bag, capture the micro-plastics and empty them into your bin to stop them entering the water system.

  • Buy pieces made from regenerated and recycled synthetics. One of the best ways to combat synthetic clothing is buying products that help clean up the ocean by reusing and recycling plastics. Stay Wild Swim uses ECONYL® regenerated nylon which is created from unwanted waste from oceans and landfill around the world such as fishing nets, fabric scraps, and industrial plastics. And Stay Wild Swim also stocks laundry bags to wash your swimwear in, combating the release of the micro-plastics. 

  • Try and buy natural fibres, even when you’re shopping on high-street. Girl, I get it. I wish we could all be swanning around in gorgeous French linens while we rock a sweet pair of vegan leather sandals on our feet. But the reality is that we have to make do with the budget that we have. While the vast majority of the clothing on high-street is synthetic or a semi-synthetic blend, there are still some natural gems to be found. Check the tags before you buy and look for sustainably-produced cotton, wool, merino, and linen. If ya’ fancy, cashmere, French linen, and silk can be good natural options too. 

  • Gym clothes can be some of the worst offenders as we tend to wash them often, and they’re generally made out of synthetic high-technology fibres. Look for Merino wool next time you pick up an outfit for the gym. It’s heat-regulating, sweat-reducing and completely natural. 

  • Try not to wash your clothes as often. If you’re like me and you tend to bypass putting things away and just chuck them in the wash basket, you could be washing your clothes way more than you need too. Try and wear your clothes a few times before washing –– a little bit of perfume, and you’re good to go. 

This article was written by Stay Wild family member Jo Fraser. Jo is a writer, environmentalist and cat person who fell in love with the ocean after working on marine conservation projects around the world.

Her website is www.jofraserwrites.com


Referenced: 

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es201811s

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