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Report: In North America, Laundering Synthetic Clothes and Driving Contribute More than Plastic Bags to Ocean Pollution

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Feb 26, 2017 9:01:01 AM

Report notes that microparticles shed by clothing and wear and tear from auto tires create millions of tons of invisible, dangerous pollutants that end up in oceans. Here's how to take action.sources of microplastic pollution.jpg

Here's the key conclusion of the report:

The  global  release  of  primary  microplastics in the world ocean was evaluated in the order of 1.5 Mtons/year. i.e. between 0.8 and 2.5 Mtons/year.

This global figure corresponds to a world equivalent per capita of 212 g, or a plastic quantity equivalent to every human tossing one conventional light grocery plastic bag per week into the ocean (In the U.S., the figure is closer to 3 bags per week--see chart below).

From  these  results  we  conclude  that  between 15% and 31% of all plastic in oceans could originate from primary sources. This is a significant but as-of-yet  unrecognised  proportion. In higher income countries benefiting from adequate waste treatment facilities, the primary microplastics represent the main  contribution to plastic release into the oceans.

The overwhelming majority (98%) of the losses of primary microplastics are  generated from land-based activities. Only 2% is generated from activities at  sea. The largest proportion of these particles stem from the laundering of
synthetic textiles and from the abrasion of tyres while driving.

Action Plan

So what's a concerned person to do. In the U.S., the answer is simple. Do laundry less often, and switch from synthetic-based clothing to natural fibers, and drive less. Note that driving electric cars won't solve this problem. We need to get out of rubber-tired vehicles altogether. We in the U.S. currently contribute about 18% of the global total of microplastics, but there's not reason that figure can't be much lower. Laundering of synthetics is by far the most polluting activity. Tire wear is a distant second, but still relevant. Also relevant is the use of personal care products containing plastics (which is most of them, at this point). The point is to start changing our behavior now. We have the information. All that's left is to take positive action, and educate our friends and families. Otherwise, we're careening toward a world without living oceans.--Editor

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Download the 46-page Report

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Topics: ocean plastics

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