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The issues we have with the microplastic waste found in our surroundings are not brand-new, even in the new year. If we are to take the first step to a life free of plastics, we, at Cottonique, believe people must start looking at their wardrobes. 

As we begin the year, if there is one thing that needs to be changed, it is the notion that plastic pollution only involves single-use items like straws, water bottles, and reusable shopping bags. 

While there remains various global efforts to reduce the use of plastic products as they usually find their way in the world’s ocean, you might not be aware of one major source of that pollution: clothes.

According to Vox, synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other forms of plastic, are about 60 percent of the material used to create the clothes worldwide. Although they are affordable, durable, and extremely versatile, the fabrics made from these harmful materials, including other synthetic-natural blends, eventually reach the oceans just by being washed.

Photo courtesy of Vox

“These tiny fibers (less than 5 millimeters in length, with diameters measured in micrometers) can eventually reach the ocean. There, they’re adding to the microplastic pollution that’s accumulating in the food chain and being ingested by all sorts of marine wildlife, and even us,” the article reads. 

WHAT ARE MICROFIBERS?

According to Ocean Clean Wash, a campaign focused on educating people and facilitating solutions to microfiber pollution from synthetic clothes, microfibers are tiny by-products of manufacturing and washing synthetic clothes and textiles.

"Plastic that ends up in the environment does not biodegrade: it fragmentizes into smaller pieces. These tiny pieces, called microfibers, are smaller than 5 mm and usually not visible to the naked eye," it said.

Photo courtesy of OceanCleanWash.

As we seek solutions to the overall issue of plastic pollution, people must realize that reducing our plastic footprint entails more than just "saving the turtles.” The clothes we wear is a major part of the problem and likewise, we need to be part of the solution.

This year, Cottonique encourages everyone to take action to lessen their personal contribution to the microplastic pollution. And there isn't a better place to start than by going through our wardrobes. Here are the 3 ways you can reduce your plastic footprint.

1. WASH YOUR CLOTHES LESS 

Yes, you heard it right. Washing clothes less frequently reduces the likelihood that the fibers will shed. According to GreenAmerica, “shedding from synthetic clothes in home washing machines make up about 35% of the global release of microplastic, coming from the synthetic fibers that make up 60% of global fiber consumption.”

"The Environmental Protection Agency explains that washing full loads causes less friction between clothes, reducing the number of microfibers shed. Meanwhile, a 2020 study done by researchers at the Newcastle Innovation Center and Northumbria University estimated that going from small to large loads about halved the number of microfibers released," it added. 

As your clothes tumble around in the washing machine, water washes away your shirt’s dirt, smells, and tiny pieces of microplastics. Act against microplastic pollution by: 

  • Washing only full loads to reduce number of wash cycles.
  • Airing out your clothes to refresh and spot treat stains when they happen. Air-drying helps reduce climate impact by 67% while machine drying clothes accounts for 75% of laundry's total carbon footprint.
  • Buying a filter for your washing machine. There are filters that specialize in capturing microfibers and stop many microplastics from leaking into waterways.

2. DON'T THROW AWAY OLD CLOTHES, UPCYCLE THEM 

Since the fast-fashion industry becomes extremely wasteful and polluting, upcycling clothes is a useful way to break the cycle. 

According to UpcycleThat, upcycling is an act of "taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function. In doing so, the finished product often becomes more practical, valuable and beautiful than what it previously was.”

"If you have old clothes that are barely usable, donating them is out of the question... Throwing away old clothes only contributes to the garbage problem, especially if they’re made from synthetic fabrics that do not easily degrade," their website said.

With just a little imagination, an old t-shirt can get a new life as something fresh and unique. If you want to upcycle your old garments, you may: 

  • Turn your shirts and flannels into creative and well-sewn tote bags 
  • Create socks from the arms of cozy sweaters 
  • Transform old clothes into cushion covers
  • Construct cleaning rags from old, tattered, and unwearable clothes 

3. CHOOSE PLASTIC-FREE FABRICS 

Microplastic pollution is a growing environmental concern brought about by the production and consumption of non-organic or synthetic fabrics made from petroleum-based materials. As you shop for new pieces for your wardrobe, keep in mind how crucial it is to know what goes into your clothing. 

Wearing synthetic materials like acrylic, nylon, and polyester causes pollution because they shed microplastic fibers that usually go down the drain. In contrast, organic fibers like cotton biodegrade readily in wastewater, freshwater, and seawater.

By purchasing clothing items made from materials or brands that have received the GOTS certification, you can ensure that what you wear remains free of harmful chemicals and pollutants, from harvest to factory to closet. That’s the reason why we believe that people should make an eco-conscious choice to wear clothes made with sustainable fabrics to help protect the environment and our health.

At Cottonique, we always take environmental responsibility into account when creating our 100% organic cotton, allergy-free clothing. Since pesticides and other chemicals, which are frequently used to create our textiles, are just one illustration of how the fashion industry has a significant negative impact on the environment, we think everyone should be concerned with the environmental impact of their clothing choices.

If you're looking for safer clothing pieces that allow people with skin allergies and sensitivities to live easily without the use of synthetics, check out our allergy-free clothing made with 100% organic cotton

Our processes remain environmentally friendly to develop allergy-free clothes that are safe for people with skin allergies and sensitive skin. In all of our collections, we only use organic cotton that is 100% chemical-free and GOTS certified. We also reduce our ecological footprint in our production processes through reductions in water, energy, chemical use, and other nature-friendly methods.

TAKEAWAY: Anyone of us can make one easy change to lessen the amount of plastic in our wardrobes by deciding to have a sustainable wardrobe rather than a closet full of fast-fashion items that are only in style every six months. After all, knowing a fabric's composition and biodegradability is necessary to prevent clothing from becoming a disposable item.

If you want to better reduce your plastic footprint, check out these 12 simple challenges made by Ocean.Org. And one way of keeping microplastics out of the ocean is to live sustainably, like choosing clothes made of natural fibers. To know about the best fabrics to choose safe for your skin, planet, and comfort, read our related blog: 5 Sustainable Fabrics to Choose for Earth Day.

To stop further environmental damage and ensure that future generations have a more comfortable future, we must all work together to transition to organic clothing.

DISCLAIMER: The information presented on Cottonique is not, and will never be, intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content materials found on this site, from text, treatments, outcomes, charts, graphics, photographs, and study findings, are created and published for general informational purposes only. It should not, in any way, be construed as a standard of care to be followed by a user of the website. 

Thus, readers are encouraged to verify any information obtained from this website with other accurate references and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with their physician. As Cottonique strives to help those with allergies live with better days, the hypoallergenic apparel brand encourages everyone to always seek the advice of their physician or other qualified health providers with any questions they may have regarding a medical condition.

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