Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain 176,500 metric tons of synthetic microfibers—chiefly polyester and nylon—are released every year onto terrestrial environments across the globe, according to a new study in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Jenna Gavigan and colleagues at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The microfibers are shed from clothing during washing, and the amount ending up on land now exceeds the amount that enters waterbodies.
Plastic pollution in the ocean has received lots of attention in recent years, but waterways are not the only place that plastic accumulates. Fourteen percent of all plastic is used to make synthetic fibers, chiefly for clothing. Microfibers, defined as particles less than 5 millimeters in length, are generated in large quantities at every stage of a fiber’s life cycle, especially during washing, which mechanically fragments synthetic fibers. When wash water becomes part of the flow to a wastewater treatment plant, the microfibers it contains may be retained along with biosolid sludge, which may be applied to cropland or buried in landfills.
To understand the global scope and distribution of synthetic microfiber release, the authors collected data on global production , consumption, and release of plastics, incorporating further data on microfibers released […]
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