Mermaids – Ocean Clean Wash

Did you know you are contributing to marine pollution by washing your clothes? Every wash of synthetic fabrics or composed fabrics (like cotton/polyester) discharges plastic fibers less than a millimeter in length. Wastewater treatment plants let them through. Fibers found on shorelines match with material used in clothing; polyester, acrylic and nylon. The impact of plastic micro- and nanofibers on the (sea) ecosystem has to be reduced. MERMAIDS, co-financed by the Life+ 2013 programme of the European Union, is looking for solutions. On this site you learn about MERMAIDS and how industry and households can be part of the solution.

What can you do?

Every year, Europeans do around 36 billion loads of washing and most of them contain synthetic clothes, releasing millions of non-degradable fibres into the waste water. Most of these fibres slip undetected through water treatment plants and out to the sea.

Who are the major culprits? Acrylic, nylon and polyester. One polyester fleece jacket sheds almost a million fibres per wash. An acrylic scarf: 300,000 fibres. Nylon socks: 136,000 fibres. Eventually, fish mistake these fibres for plankton when they end up in the oceans and seas. Around 65% of the shrimp in the North Sea contain synthetic fibres. And, guess what? We are at the top of the food chain, so they end up in our plates.

With small changes in your washing habits, you can reduce the amount of fibres you shed:

  • Fill up your washing machine to the max: washing a full load results in less friction between the clothes and, therefore, less fibres are released.
  • Use washing liquid instead of powder: the ‘scrub’ function of the grains of the powder result in loosening the fibres of clothes more than with liquid.
  • Use a fabric softener: some ingredients in fabric softeners reduce friction between fibres so the release decreases.
  • Wash at a low temperature: when clothes are washed at a high temperature some fabrics are damaged, leading to the release of fibres.
  • Avoid long washings: long periods of washing cause more friction between fabrics, which supposes more tearing of the fibres.
  • Dry spin clothes at low revs: higher revolutions increase the friction between the clothes, resulting in higher chances of fibres loosening.
  • Avoid buying synthetic clothes and look for wool, cotton, linen, silk, cashmere or other natural fabrics.