BY PARIS HENDERSON

We see plastic everywhere, in our wallets, in every shop we enter. However, it’s also in the things we don’t see, from the fish we eat to the clothes we wear. That’s right, your favourite gym outfit, togs and many other clothing items in your wardrobe contain tiny little microplastics which harm the environment. 

Every time we wash certain clothes, the plastic fibres shred off and travel down the drain, with forty percent littering our oceans, rivers and lakes. Sewage treatment plants are not able to filter microfibers out, making them incredibly harmful not only to the sea life but also to humans. This is because through water, beer, salt, seafood, sugar, alcohol, and honey, microfibers are becoming part of our diet. In fact, it is estimated that people are consuming around 11,000 microfibers per year. Of course this is will vary within age and gender but the amount we use as a whole is concerning. 

The production of polyester is also another environmental hazard due to the vast amounts of oil, energy and harmful chemicals required in its manufacture. Nearly seventy million barrels of oil are used to create polyester each year. As oil is a fossil fuel and therefore nonrenewable, this makes it incredibly harmful to the environment. While the water used is less than with many other fibres, natural or low impact dyes are not able to be used creating a huge impact on water supplies. Polyester requires double the amount of energy that cotton uses during its production which is, let’s face it – shocking. The last and arguably most important downside is chemicals such as carcinogens. These are very harmful pollutants, causing major damage to the environment when released in air or water without treatment. Because polyester is often manufactured in countries such as China, Indonesia or Bangladesh, they are usually left untreated due to loose environmental standards. Polyester production creates pollution and poorly affects communities in close proximity to manufacturing stations. 

There are around 1.4 million trillion microplastics littering in our oceans today – and this number is continuing to grow with an estimated 6.4 million tons per year. However, it’s not all bad news, there are a few things we as citizens can do to minimize the damage of microfibers. We can make a difference through simple choices we make every day. We can avoid washing and wearing synthetic clothes like polyester. We can buy alternative natural fabrics such as cotton, wool or linen. We can invest in a Guppyfriend or Coraball to reduce the impact of our laundry litter. Guppyfriend is a washing bag which filters out and traps microfibers, stopping them from going into the waterways. The coraball is a coral-like ball which you just place in your washing machine, trapping up to twenty-six percent of microfibers. 

It’s clear we need to change to more sustainable ways if we want a bright future for our planet and everything living on it. Our current methods are choking and destroying our sea-life and, ultimately, us. I am positive that we are able to do this through hard work and a lot more attention on the issue. 

If you want to help us make this change, please sign the pledge here. Our objective through this pledge is to support action on eradicating microfibers from New Zealand, this will protect our oceans rivers and environment for future generations to enjoy. 

Tearaway is all about giving young people a platform to express themselves, from all points of view; we encourage diversity of opinions, provided they are expressed with respect for those who differ. The opinions expressed may or may not be those of the Tearaway editorial team and Management.

This story was submitted for The Common Room, a place for all young people to share their views. Got something to say? Everyone’s welcome – click here to contribute!

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