It is now common knowledge (we hope) that the world’s oceans are filled with tons of plastic waste. Sadly, the truth is each year, about 8.8 million tons of plastic gets dumped into their waters where it threatens the very existence of marine life. But there are still sides to this scary reality that many of us do not realize. For example, while thinking about the trash that ends up in the oceans, we usually imagine used plastic bottles and plastic bags from supermarkets – and rightly so, because those everyday items constitute a huge percentage of all marine debris. But there are also much less obvious plastic throwaways finding their way into the oceans, sometimes very tiny ones – like plastic fibers from our clothing.
Although very small, microfibers are still very dangerous to animals and they accumulate into huge amounts of plastic debris. Most of the clothing we wear today is made of synthetic materials, cheap to produce and easy to maintain. However, these materials shed little plastic fibers every time we do laundry. In fact, it’s estimated that each time we wash a piece of synthetic clothing, 1,900 plastic microfibers are released from it into the water. Since most machines don’t have a filtration system to speak of, these fibers get carried from our washing machines to sewage plants or waterways, where they again fail to be filtered out. Eventually, the fibers are washed out to sea where they are accidentally consumed by fish. In the ocean, plastic acts like a sponge picking up toxins and chemicals along the way. So essentially, when fish eat plastic fibers, they’re taking on that toxic burden as well. In the end, people who eat fish are also consuming little bits of plastic that traveled all the way from someone else’s washing machine.
Luckily, there are many innovations being made to reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans. One response to the problem of microfibers in the oceans is the Cora Ball – a small colorful ball designed especially to catch plastic fibers from our clothes and, thus, limit their amounts in the waters. All you have to do is put the ball (whose shape is inspired by ocean corals) inside the washing machine and it will do the rest of the job. What makes this little invention even more appealing, the Cora Ball is made entirely from recycled plastic.
Thanks to this little invention, we will soon be able to filter out some of the waste produced by our plastic obsession, but this is certainly not where our positive actions should end. We produce and use an absurd amount of plastic every day, however, there are many simple ways we can reduce this pollution at the source. By choosing reusable water bottles, tote bags, and even straws, we can significantly reduce our personal contribution to the 8.8 million tons of waste dumped in the oceans every year.
If you’re ready to reduce your impact on the oceans, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Image source: Cora Ball