published on 21 January 2021 in water
From washing machines to the Arctic Ocean
The problem of microplastics has been recognised for some time now, and we know that they are found in seas and oceans all over the globe. They can even be found in the oceans around the Arctic ice cap: before reaching the North Pole, the tiny plastic particles have made a long journey from our washing machines. Yes, much of the plastic in the Arctic Ocean comes from the synthetic fibres that make up many of the items of clothing we wear every day around the world. This is explained by a study carried out by a group of scientists from the Canadian non-governmental organisation Ocean Wise, published in the journal Nature on 12 January this year.
Analysis of the composition of microplastics present in samples from 71 sites, located between North America and Europe and directly in the polar region, indicates that 92.3% of the particles are synthetic fibres and, in particular, 73.3% are polyester. The source of these microfibres are homes and water treatment plants. To further understand why these plastic particles are concentrated in the Arctic Ocean, the researchers also analysed the currents, stating that “the abundance of particles are correlated to longitude, with almost three times more particles in the eastern Arctic compared to the west.” A possible solution within everyone’s reach, which could check the problem, is to install filters in every washing machine. In fact, some filters are able to reduce the dispersion of polyester fibres in drains by 95%. What is needed, however, is for not only consumer habits to change but also companies’ production methods.