"Not many people know that lots of our clothes are made of plastic," says Imogen Napper, a PhD student at Plymouth University, "polyester, acrylic."
Ms Napper and Prof Richard Thompson study marine microplastics - fragments and fibres found in the ocean surface, the deep sea and the marine food chain.
And in a recent lab study, they found that polyester and acrylic clothing shed thousands of plastic fibres each time it was washed- yet another source of plastic pollution in the ocean.
"My friends always make fun of me because they think of marine biology as such a sexy science - all turtles, hot countries and bikinis," says Ms Napper.
"But I've been spending hours washing clothes and counting the fibres."
It might not be exotic, but this painstaking laundry-science has revealed that an average UK washing load - 6kg (13lb) of fabric - can release:
140,000 fibres from polyester-cotton blend
nearly half a million fibres from polyester
more than 700,000 fibres from acrylic
The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity's carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world's water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.
85% of all textiles go to the dump each year. And washing some types of clothes sends thousands of bits of plastic into the ocean.
While people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, they only kept the clothes for half as long.
The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.
Washing clothes, meanwhile, releases 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean each year — the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
Many of those fibers are polyester, a plastic found in an estimated 60% of garments. Producing polyester releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton, and polyester does not break down in the ocean.
35% of all microplastics — very small pieces of plastic that never biodegrade — in the ocean came from the laundering of synthetic textiles like polyester.
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