Small pieces of your jerseys and jeans, known as microfibers, are constantly released into the environment. Just think of the little, almost magical, pieces of “dust” that you see in a ray of sunshine when you shake out a piece of clothing, towel or sheet. Once it is washed from the air by rain, or enter the water cycle via your washing machine, these fibres are destined to end up in rivers, dams and eventually the ocean. Research now shows that synthetic textile such as polyester is a major source of microplastic pollution.1 Microplastice are pieces of plastic smaller than 5 milimetres and mostly come from the breakdown of larger plastic products like cold drink bottles, plastic straws, car tyres as well as from the microbeads in cosmetics and also from synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon. Polypropelene and Polyethene are the most abundant microplastic in marine environments and have been identified in food items like fish and salt from several countries.2,3 We are, unknowingly, consuming the microscopic remains of our plastic products. Chew on that. Research are only just beginning to understand the toxicity of these microplastics, but so far microplastics have been linked to changes in energy metabolism, liver damage and reproductive performance of sea creatures.4
In areas where plastic pollution is wide spread, marine animals become severely malnourished and even starve because they ingest plastic, feeling full, but not getting the nutrition they need. There were the sea turtle suffering a painful life with a plastic straws lodged in it’s nose5 and endless hearth breaking images of seabirds and seals crippled by our plastic packaging in their ocean habitat …
My life changed when I realised that there really is not something like a cheap consumer product. If I pay very little for an item, then I need to consider who is carrying the rest of cost. Who will fit the bill for the large scale ocean clean-ups that desperately needs to happen across the globe? Who is funding the research to develop new technologies able to deal with the microplastic problem? Can we even put a price the effect of an irresponsibly made and discarded cheap product on human health?
So I urge you, dear reader, to please consider carefully what you buy. Choosing greener products and living a more sustainable life is a gradual process. An endless journey that starts with small steps and mindful decisions in your every day. I want to warn you, one stands at risk to become discouraged by the magnitude of the challenge. The polluted ocean current of consumer culture and human habit, can easily mislead you to think that your little contribution does not matter. “It’s just a straw”, said 7 billion people. #skipthestraw.
At the end of the day, I do believe that there is great comfort in taking responsibility for your life, and making the best choices that you are able to with the resources and information at hand. Living kindly brings reward, and perhaps not so much for me, as for my children.
A KIND note: All KIND products are chosen to be as kind as possible to the environment. Flags are made from natural textiles rather than synthetic materials. This mean that your flags might crease a bit more easy than a cheaper synthetic poly-cotton counterpart, but it will biodegrade without releasing harmful chemicals once you discard them – after hopefully many happy memories has been made.
- Hernandez et al 2017 Polyester textile as a source of microplastics from households. DOI:10.1021/acs.est.7b01750 Environmental Science and technology
- Karami et al 2017 The presence of microplastics in commercial salts from different countries Scientific Reports volume7, Article number: 46173 (2017)
- Hidalgo-Ruz, V., Gutow, L., Thompson, R. C. & Thiel, M. Microplastics in the marine environment: a review of the methods used for identification and quantification. Environ Sci Technol 46, 3060–3075 (2012).
- Anbumani, S. & Kakkar, P. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2018) 25: 14373. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-1999-x Ecotoxicological effects of microplastics on biota: a review
- Jane Lee 2018 How did sea turtle get a straw up its nose? Accessed 17 Aug 2018 https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/how-did-sea-turtle-get-a-straw-up-its-nose.aspx