The Eco Guide to Laundry

Author:  Lucy Siegle  | Published: May 7, 2017 

I almost yearn for the days when 80% of a garment’s ecological impact was down to the phosphates and optical brighteners in detergent. Oh, and climate emissions from the energy used to heat the water.

Cleaning up all that was straightforward: turn the machine down to 30C and use an eco detergent.

But now there’s another laundry menace in town: microfibres (defined as particles under 5mm). According to research by Plymouth University, washing 6kg of clothes can result in anything between 137,951 fibres (for polyester-cotton clothes) to 728,789 fibres (for acrylic clothes) released as oceanic pollution.

A study from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, confirmed that microfibres evading sewage treatment works can be ingested by fish larvae. Scientists are studying the effects of this on the food chain, but it’s unlikely to be positive.

In terms of plastic fibre volume, a city the size of Berlin may be responsible for releasing the equivalent of 540,000 plastic bags’ worth of them into the ocean daily.


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