Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bit of Fluff

On the weekend, I was out in the Mini-Tripper kayak, the one with the big, wide-open cockpit. Looking down at my sandals, I saw they were messy and picked off a piece of seaweed and another piece of black fluff. Both the messy bits went over the side.
Then I thought a little more about that bit of fluff. Probably from my clothes. I bought new socks the other day, so that fluff might be from a sock. Polyester.
Polyester might not seem like something to write about in a kayaking blog. But if you've read the news on Science Daily, you'll know that clothing is a source of tiny particles of plastic that can be found in sea water. Go to this link and see the article.
Basically, tiny bits of polyester and acrylic are breaking off clothing in washing machines. The water draining out of washing machines ends up in the ocean. Shorelines tested all over the world show microplastic debris on the beaches and in the guts of marine life.
One speck in a microbial life form isn't too much. But the microplastic doesn't digest, and it accumulates in the food chain.
Scientist Mark Browne and his colleagues wrote a report saying that "more than 1,900 fibers can rinse off of a single garment during a wash cycle, and these fibers look just like the microplastic debris on shorelines." The report calls for designers of washing machines "to develop methods for removing microplastic from sewage."
I don't know how guilty I can feel about fibers wearing off my clothing and sludging into the wastewater pipes. Guilty enough that I am going to make the effort to buy natural fiber clothes when I can, and that means no more cheap polyester socks. I already knew that I like the feel of wool, silk, and cotton, as well as other natural fibers. I already knew that merino wool clothes are better for paddling than polyester!

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