Tiny plastic particles released by synthetic fabrics can cause harm to marine life when they enter rivers and oceans

Each cycle of a washing machine could release more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibres into the environment, according to a study.

A team at Plymouth University in the UK spent 12 months analysing what happened when a number of synthetic materials were washed at different temperatures in domestic washing machines, using different combinations of detergents, to quantify the microfibres shed.

They found that acrylic was the worst offender, releasing nearly 730,000 tiny synthetic particles per wash, five times more than polyester-cotton blend fabric, and nearly 1.5 times as many as polyester.

“Different types of fabrics can have very different levels of emissions,” said Richard Thompson, professor of marine biology at Plymouth University, who conducted the investigation with a PhD student, Imogen Napper. “We need to understand why is it that some types of [fabric] are releasing substantially more fibres [ than others].”

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