Is laundry fuelling the marine plastics crisis?

A new study from Canadian non-profit Ocean Wise has shown that synthetic fibres, many released from clothing and textiles during domestic laundry, make up a large proportion of microplastics in the Arctic Ocean

Clothing and textiles are a major and underacknowledged source of microplastics pollutions in the world’s oceans, a new study analysing seawater samples from across the Arctic Ocean has found.

The study revealed that synthetic fibres make up more than 90 per cent of microplastic pollution found in near-surface seawater samples from across the Arctic. Nearly three-quarters of those fibres are polyester and resemble fibres widely used in clothing and textiles, with the bulk of this pollution thought to released during domestic laundry, the research states.

The analysis, which was conducted by Canadian non-profit Ocean Wise and published in the Nature Communications journal, claims to be the most comprehensive study of Arctic microplastics ever undertaken.

Ocean Wise analysed samples from 71 locations across the European and North American Arctic, including the North Pole, as well as samples from a depth of up to 1,015 metres scooped from the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and western Canada. They found an average concentration of around 40 microplastics particles per cubic metre, while observing almost three times more microplastic particles in the eastern Arctic compared to the western Arctic, suggesting that new polyester fibres are being delivered to the eastern Arctic Ocean by currents from the Atlantic – meaning many are likely originating from countries surrounding the Atlantic Ocean.

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