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BBC article - our clothes are polluting the ocean  RSS feed

 
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Yet another reason to wear natural clothing, or failing that to buy longer lasting clothes.

Dirty laundry: Are your clothes polluting the ocean? - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-40498292





"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

 
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Speaking of reducing microplastics by buying less clothes, I just found out about clothes that "grow" with your children. It's sadly made of synthetics, but it is outer wear, and synthetics do come in handy in keeping kids dry and clean when they invariably decide to go rolling in mud or splashing in puddles or slipping and landing in duck poop. Ans, since it's outerwear, it's not coming in contact with the child's skin as much, either.



Website: http://petitpli.com

Article: https://jamesdysonaward.org/projects/petit-pli-clothes-grow-child/



 
r ranson
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That is a fantastic idea.  Many years ago, I saw something similar to this made from silk.  It was too expensive, but basically the same idea.


I'm of two minds about synthetics.  I think that synthetic cloth can be very useful to some people, depending on their values and lifestyle.  For me, it's important that these people understand what they are buying and have a plan for the afterlife of the cloth.  For example, a raincoat might last 10 or 20 years.  That's great!  But buying a synthetic raincoat that is only going to last two months... not so great.  

 
Nicole Alderman
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Ran across another article... well, blog post, about mircoplastics https://returntonow.net/2017/10/15/yoga-pants-destroying-planet/. I often hesitate to link to blogs when it comes to facts as my college years trained me to stick to peer-reviewed sources and newspapers. But, this one seems to link to a lot of good sources, and it's got a cool graphic.



It looks like something like 80% of the microplastics in our water come from people's clothing. Though, I do kind of wonder how they can tell that... as they are just saying "fibers" and saying those are from clothing. Wouldn't wipes also create plastic fibers? How can they tell the difference?

Either way, I'm going to continue to avoid nylon and polyester clothing as much as I can. It is hard to find affordable outdoor clothing for kids that's not polyester/nylon, as most natural fibers like to wick moisture...or absorb and hold large quantities of it, and that doesn't really work for little kids splashing in puddles or crawling in damp grass...
 
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I learned about this in a documentary a few years ago. The scary part is what happens to these petroleum based micro particles when they enter the food chain. The smallest ocean creatures mistake them for food, then those creatures are eaten by larger ones, in turn eaten by larger ones, and so on to the top of the predatory fish chain such as tuna and mackerel for example. Then people eat the tuna and mackerel, unknowingly ingesting rather high levels of these toxic compounds which are now in the flesh of the fish. I used to love tuna & mackerel, I don't eat them anymore.
 
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A good way to solve part of this problem is to wash our clothes less and avoid dryers. I think the heat and action of dryers damage the cloth and will increase the amount it sheds the next time it's washed.

For example, decades ago I met a lady whose family washed their bath towels after every use - huh??? We put up racks so the kids learned at an early age to hang their towel to dry in their own spot - after all we're removing relatively clean water off a relatively clean body and we wash the towel once every 1-2 months and hang them to dry.

Similarly, we have "farm clothes" and "good clothes". If I wear my "good clothes" for a couple of hours while I have dinner and socialize with a friend, I don't consider that clothes dirty unless I ended up wearing dinner. It goes on a hook on the wall and gets worn to 4-5 such events before going in the wash. The farm clothes get dirty, but are only going to get dirty again, so there again I let much of it go several days unless there's something particularly icky I got into.

Too many humans are getting waaayyyy.... too obsessed with "clean" and there's at least some evidence that it's doing us harm from the immunological point of view. Of course, TV and advertisements for "whiter than white" have pushed that mind-set. The chemical companies *want* us to buy more detergent and wear our clothes out faster, so shift societal expectations. My father grew up in England during the Second World War. You washed in the sink in the evening and bathed once a week. Now there are people who are showering twice a day. Our skin is our largest organ, and I just can't imagine that's all that good for it when it includes soaps and detergents.

I know that when I was an elementary aged child, I used to wear the same outfit to school for several days in a row and changed to "play clothes" when I got home. No one complained! Recently I read an article about a woman who made her daughter wear the same t-shirt for a week (it had an anti-bullying logo on it and she'd been caught bullying). At least some people responded by suggesting that making her wear the "same" t-shirt (Mom said she'd launder it) was unacceptable. I happen to know that my own mother had two winter skirts to wear to high school and she had to wear them for several years. Times have changed - not necessarily for the better! Clothes used to be mended (I still do for both my own family and several others) but now they're tossed.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that part of the solution to this problem is a change in mind-set. Dirt is not evil. Dryers mostly are. In my climate, I adore water resistant outer wear and would sorely miss it. But I won't abuse that privilege, and really hope that we can change other people's mind set back to "clothing" from "fashion".

 
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Another way that clothing can pollute the environment is with clothing that offer "odor control/duel defense/etc." that release silver ions (nanosilver) that act as an antibacterial to control odor.  Ignoring any possible effects that a continual presence of antibacterial silver ions on your skin would have on your skin's natural bacterial flora and disturbing their population dynamics, if the silver ions released into the wash water get into the local waterways they can have an adverse effect on aquatic life.  I also wonder what effect they would have on the anaerobic aquatic ecosystem existing in your septic tank.
 
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This is on my mind a lot. I have few clothes and try to buy natural fabrics, but particularly when trying to use secondhand clothing, I feel like 95+% of the market is synthetic. Then whenever I wash them I get creepy visions of the plastic fibers entering the environment. When I am given other peoples old clothes (all my relatives like to give me their old tee shirts and pajamas and stuff for some reason) and I cannot wear them, I donate if they are nice enough to resell and if they are not I cut up for rags which eventually become compost if they are natural fibers. For synthesics in bad shape, I do not have a good plan. I have thought about cutting them up for cushion filler so they will be sequestered and not washed, but I don’t really need cushions, and often sewing projects end up generating more waste and scraps. Does anyone know if those little clothes recycling drop off sheds in parking lots are a good option? Usually they say the clothing will be recycled and the proceeds go to the charity (our local one is pink and goes to cancer research). Does anyone know what happens to those recycled clothes and how likely they are to end up polluting the environment after you drop them off? Better options?
 
Jay Angler
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I have one better option Jennifer, but it's time consuming to make. I made the rag rug below ~30 years ago and it's been in daily use most of the time since. It is definitely starting to show its age, but it was made with polyester knit pants/dresses and one old pair of drapes. I can wash it on delicate in our machine, and I hang it on a rack to dry.
Kitchen-rag-rug.jpg
[Thumbnail for Kitchen-rag-rug.jpg]
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Nice, Jay!

I have never woven anything. I looked up looms. I cannot afford one, so I looked up plans for making looms. I could do that, but I am a bit short on time/motivation for new projects. It looks to me like I could nail in two rows of small finish nails (with the nails in each row, say, 1/3 inch apart?) on an unfinished plywood wall and achieve the same effect (and then I wouldn’t have yet another piece of craft equipment to store). Do you think that would work?
 
Jay Angler
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I taught my son some weaving on a simple board with nails. You need something to act as a giant needle to pull the weft (in this case the used material) in and out of the warp (thread you'd wrap up and down between the nails and you need a way to push the material down hard against the previous row (what we call beating - my son's project was small enough that we used a comb). It's important that you "place" the weft material so that the edges of your rug don't curve in, as opposed to pulling tight. I would stitch on more material as I went along. Maybe post some questions in the permies weaving forum and someone who's done off-loom weaving will speak up. My gut feeling is that you'd need at least a bit of a head on the nails and that they shouldn't be too wimpy, but I've not tried it.

Certainly, I did use up a *lot* of old clothing doing rag rugs back then. I've got them in three other spots in the house, and gave a number of them away. Some I used a cotton warp on, but the kitchen one was some sort of artificial material I picked up cheaply. From the "re-use" perspective, I can't complain, even though I try not to buy that sort of material today. Live and learn.
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Thanks, Jay! I think I will make an attempt with what I’ve got around and see how it works out. I’ve been wondering what to do with this spool of braided synthetic line I’ve got; maybe it’ll work for the warp, since I don’t have cotton thread or cord around. Worst case scenario, the stuff can still go to the recycling collection shed thing.
C086AE0B-FDE6-4C74-A727-DA56F71B2C95.jpeg
[Thumbnail for C086AE0B-FDE6-4C74-A727-DA56F71B2C95.jpeg]
 
Jay Angler
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@ Jen - that sounds like an awesome idea. That cord should do the job and if the project does work, it will give you many years of usefulness. We can't instantly transform this world, so at least if we get the maximum use out of the artificial materials we've already produced, there may be better ways to recycle them down the road.
 
Jennifer Richardson
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That’s a really good point, Jay, about holding onto them until we hopefully have better recycling options down the road.

For anyone interested, here is an article I found that describes making a round loom for rugs from cardboard or an old hula hoop, and it seemed to work well for her. Also describes an efficient method of cutting/joining tee shirts into yarn, although I’ll probably end up using other garments.

https://www.apieceofrainbow.com/make-rag-rug-from-old-t-shirts/
 
Jay Angler
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@ Jen - that looks like good basic instructions. Personally I would find a rectangle more useful in my house, but people need to decide if they're looking for function or floor art! Consider where it will go before setting your loom size.
For the rectangle:
1/ I would use some of your warp material to weave a narrow border. You can't really see it in my picture, but there are 3 threads which I then used another piece of warp thread to oversew. That stops the rug from loosening at the edge when you remove it from your loom. You will have trouble weaving it tightly at the end, so planning on enough unused warp at both ends that can be tied (which you can see in the top left corner) gives a nice finish.
2/ I don't know why they show you weaving from the top to the bottom. If you're working vertically on a wall as shown, I would think the ergonomics would be better to work from the bottom upward, pushing the weft firmly down at each step. Use a step stool when you get nearer the top if you can't lower the whole loom, if you've got old, crotchety shoulders like I do.
For the round rug:
1/ You'll notice they used warp material in the very center to weave the tight area - this is good, but I'd do the same at the outer edge to finish it.
2/ I wouldn't do this too large. The warp is getting further apart as you go out, so there'll be less structural stability. If you want it larger, I would treat the warp near the center as double strands, so that 1/3 or 1/2 way out I could split them and use them as two strands. I don't know exactly how that would look at the "split" point, but doing just two rounds with your warp material at the split point would make it look intentional. If you can't hide it, flaunt it!
3/ The double twined weaving pattern they're using will improve the structural stability of the rug, but it won't go fast. This would be a "relax and do something light while listening to music or Paul's podcasts" sort of thing after a busy day.
Hopefully, you'll actually try this and show us pictures!
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Jay,

Many thanks for the tips! That clears up a lot.

I will certainly post pictures once I get started. I just did a major cleaning, so I don’t have any excess fabric at the moment, but I know it will appear at some point—and I’ll be waiting!
 
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