How Fast Fashion is Treating our Oceans and Rivers
The ocean covers seventy one percent of our small world. It’s been referred to as Earth’s life support. It produces our oxygen, it feeds us, and it regulates our climate. But wait, what the $#*% does fashion have to do with this?
Tiny Little Micro-Plastics
Approximately 10–20 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year. That figure is pretty hard to visualize, but we can all feel pretty certain that it’s (ahem) a s***load of plastic. How our clothing contributes to this problem, however, is straight up impossible to visualize.
Picture this – trillions of plastic fibres, less than 1mm wide, in our oceans. Ok, also impossible to picture. Which is part of the reason it’s so problematic. Tiny plastic microfibers are moving from our polyester, nylon and acrylic clothing, through our washing machines, directly into the big blue ocean at a crazy rate. And the concentration of these fibres in our oceans is only rising – every year we buy more and more polyester clothing, shedding more and more microfibres.
A sample of water containing plastic microfibers. The ruler behind shows one millimetre from left to right. Source: Peter S. Ross, Ocean Pollution Research Program
But maybe the most frightening fact about all these tiny plastic fibres is that marine life are consuming them, and we’re consuming the marine life. A recent study on brown shrimp in the North Sea found that 63% of them contained plastic microfibers. The effects of eating these plastics on our health are not yet known, but we're pretty sure it's not part of an organic diet. For more information and tips on how you can help tackle the plastic problem in our oceans, check out the amazing 5 Gyres Institute.
The World Bank estimates that almost 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. Millions of gallons of wastewater discharged by textile mills each year contain chemicals such as formaldehyde (HCHO), chlorine and heavy metals such as lead and mercury.
In Indonesia the Citarum River has been classified as the most polluted river in the world. This river supports the livelihoods of nearly 30 million people, who depend on it for food, agriculture and drinking water. It is also lined with hundreds of Textile factories who have spent years dumping toxic chemicals into the waterway. Recent investigations into the pollution caught a few of the biggest western clothing retailers red-handed, meaning you might want to take a closer look at that bright t-shirt you’re wearing.
The 'most polluted river in the world'. Citarum River, Java, Indonesia
Unfortunately, the tags on your clothing won’t say what kind of dyes or other chemicals were used to make them. And to make matters worse, these chemicals can pose serious risks to our health. Ask your clothing labels whether they use low-impact or natural dyes. If you think those dyes might be dull, think again. TAMGA’s crazy colourful prints are made with 100% low-impact inks, and our Premium items are made with 100% natural indigo dye.
If you want to learn more about the impact of your clothing but don't know where to start, check out our blog on "Six Questions to Ask your Favourite Clothing Labels" (without sounding like a jerk).
Does it seem crazy that our clothing is having this much impact on our oceans? Are you looking for ways to dress and live more sustainably? Get in touch by commenting 👇👇👇 and let's keep the conversation going.