Blackburn from Leeds says, “Nobody wants a t-shirt that looks less than it did when it was first purchased.” He suggests that clothes should be washed in shorter, cooler cycles. You will still be able to clean your shirts. He explains that modern detergents can be used in shorter, cooler cycles.
It is also easier for the environment to have a shorter and cooler wash cycle. It reduces energy consumption. The fossil fuels that produce electricity add to the greenhouse-gas emissions which cause climate change. Also, using less energy can save you money.
Water pollution can be reduced by using shorter, cooler wash cycles. Some dyes can contain dangerous chemicals. All of these lost fibers add up. Flavia Salvador Cesa says that the amount of fibers lost in a wash load is about equal to a piece of chewing gum. She is a graduate student at University of Sao Paolo in Brazil. These tiny microfibers came out in the laundry wash water, in a study.
Cesa was part a research team that calculated the annual loss of fabric fibers due to washing machines around the world. This total is approximately 18,300 metric tonnes (21,200 U.S. shorter tons) of cotton and 12,500 tons (13,800 U.S. tons), of synthetic fibers. The team also examined the prewashing of fabrics by fabric manufacturers. The team also examined how detergents and better filters could be used on washing machines owned by consumers. Her group reports that a combination of these measures could reduce fiber loss by approximately half. Many tons would still be lost to the waterways.
The team presented its findings in the February Environment Pollution.
Fibers can end up in rivers, streams and oceans if they are not removed from the wash. These fibers account for about one-third of all plastics found in waterways. This is the 2017 report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
It’s not just a problem with plastics. Researchers from the UK and Spain studied microfibers in deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Nearly eight out of ten were made from cotton or linen. This study was published on 2018. Blackburn points out that even though it is cotton and a natural fiber it does not degrade in the marine environment. Blackburn and other scientists are working together to understand why. Scientists are also studying the impact of polluting fibers upon sea life.
Cesa loves that Cotton’s group suggests shorter and cooler cycles to wash clothes. This can result in lower pollution, less consumer costs, and better-looking clothes.
Even small steps can make a difference in reducing waste. Cotton states that “everything you can do can make an impact,” even if it’s as simple as changing the wash settings.