Paris: Households in Europe and North America are flooding the oceans with plastic pollution simply by washing their clothes, scientists said after research found the majority of microplastics in Arctic seawater were polyester fibres. Plastic particles have infiltrated even the most remote and seemingly-pristine regions of the planet. These tiny fragments have been discovered inside fish in the deepest recesses of the ocean — the Mariana Trench — peppering Arctic sea ice and blanketing the snows on the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain.
But questions remain over exactly where this plastic contamination is coming from. In the new study by the Ocean Wise conservation group and Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, researchers sampled seawater from across the Arctic and found synthetic fibres made up around 92 per cent of micro plastic pollution. Of this, around 73 percent was found to be polyester, resembling the dimensions and chemical identities of synthetic textiles — particularly clothing.
“The striking conclusion here is that we now have strong evidence that homes in Europe and North America are directly polluting the Arctic with fibers from laundry (via wastewater discharge),” said lead author Peter Ross, of Ocean Wise and the University of British Columbia. He said the mechanisms for this remain unclear, but added that ocean currents appear to play a major role in transporting the fibres northwards, while atmospheric systems may also contribute.
“Plastics are all around us, and while it would be grossly unfair to specifically point our finger at textiles as the only source of micro plastics to the world’s oceans, we nonetheless see a strong footprint of polyester fibers that are likely to be largely derived from clothing,” he said.