Our Clothes are Sending Microplastics into Nature. Science and … – ecoRI news

Our Clothes are Sending Microplastics into Nature. Science and … – ecoRI news

Some of us may remember the bracing and virtuous feel of brushing our teeth or washing our face with pastes that seemed to contain a pinch of beach sand or salt; didn’t we feel cleaner than clean?

Well, remembering is all that’s left. Those toothpastes and skin scrubs did their work with tiny beads of plastic, very small and poorly understood pollutants that are moving by the tons into waterways, soil, animals, food, and our own bodies.

The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 banned those tiny plastic beads from exfoliating scrubs and toothpastes, but that small action is just a grab at the lowest-hanging fruit of a global problem. The environmental threat of microplastics — created mainly by the breakdown of plastic waste — continues. In the past decade, scientists are working harder to capture, measure, and evaluate the danger of microplastics in places like Narragansett Bay.

Also, microplastic fibers, a worrisome subset of microplastics, have caught the attention of the textile industry, which brings the fibers into being, which now wants to find ways to capture and reuse them.

Microplastic is defined as any bits of plastic up to 5 millimeters in size. They can be spherical, jagged, or any random shape. They are created by the physical and chemical breakdown of plastic waste, and are found everywhere on Earth, including the depths of the oceans, on mountaintops, and in the flesh of animals and breast milk of humans.

It is estimated that 44% to 50% of sea birds, sea turtles, otters, and fish have eaten or been entangled in plastic debris. Research is looking at the internal damage to animals, especially sea life, that ingest plastic, and to the people who eat the animals that have plastic in their bodies. A related question is whether microplastics in the environment act as a vector to absorb and transmit bacteria.

Microfibers are defined as tiny slivers of material with a 1:3 ratio of width to length. Fibers are “shed,” or thrown off, textiles during the simple movements of using, wearing, and washing them. Besides clothing, textiles can include towels and linens, sails and rope, cigarette filters, face masks, and tire tread.

Natural fibers, such as cotton, linen, wool, and silk, shed their fibers, as do polyester, rayon, acetate, and all of the other mixes of synthetic fabrics that originate in an oil well.

Experts estimate that about 9 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, according to Beyond Plastics. About 85% of microplastic waste in the environment is believed to be microfibers. About 100 million tons of textiles was produced across the globe in 2016, said Martin Bide, retired professor from the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design at the University of Rhode Island. Also in that year, he said, 62.7% of the global fiber market was polyester fibers.

As scientists troll the Earth’s waters for microplastics to document and study, people in the textile, fashion, and design industries are trying to come up with ways to collect waste plastic and, stated simply, to melt and then spin the plastic into filaments and fibers that are then used to weave new cloth.

This work to retrieve and reuse junk plastic is a variation of the reduce, recycle, refill, and reuse mantra that …….

Source: https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMidmh0dHBzOi8vZWNvcmkub3JnL291ci1jbG90aGVzLWFyZS1zZW5kaW5nLW1pY3JvcGxhc3RpY3MtaW50by1uYXR1cmUtc2NpZW5jZS1hbmQtaW5kdXN0cnktYXJlLWdlYXJpbmctdXAtdG8tZmlnaHQtYmFjay_SAQA?oc=5

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