Textiles cause 35% of microplastics in the ocean

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
The Institution called for urgent action to tackle textile waste

Around 35% of microplastics released into the ocean are from synthetic textiles, according to a new report by Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The Institution called for “urgent action” to tackle waste produced over the lifecycle of an item of clothing, including addressing water-intensive processes such as removing excess dyes and improving end of life care.

The report, Engineering Out Fashion Waste, found each time an item of clothing is washed, up to 700,000 microscopic fibres make their way into the ocean.

Currently, around 3/5 of all clothing produced is sent to landfill or incinerated within a year of being made.

It recommended three priority areas for government: create incentives to develop more environmentally friendly fibres, work with gashion industry to tackle false sustainability claims or ‘greenwashing’ and develop mechanical and chemical fibre recycling technologies to separate blended fibres.

Aurelie Hulse, lead author of Engineering Out Fashion Waste, said: “. Garments should be created so they don’t fall apart at the seams and so that they can be recycled after they have been worn for many years.

“Fabrics should be designed not to shed microfibres when washed and industry needs look at how efficiencies can be made in the cutting process, which currently sees 60bn m2 of cut-off material discarded on factory floors each year.”

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