Is Clothing Made From Recycled Material Bad For The Environment?
I love wearing clothing made from recycled plastic and supporting brands that repurpose old fishing nets and plastic bottles. We can now buy anything from leggings, shoes, and jackets made from recycled plastic.
Unfortunately, there’s a negative aspect to clothing made from synthetic material. When they’re washed, abrasion causes microscopic pieces of plastic to shed from the garments. These are referred to as microplastics or microfibres. These can range in size from a few microns to ~5mm and often look thread-like. During the laundry process, these tiny pieces of plastic get released into our water systems and oceans and it’s very easy for marine life to swallow them.
Introducing The Guppyfriend Washing Bag
A year ago, I dragged my poor husband to all the local Patagonia stores in search of a Guppyfriend washing bag. At the time, Patagonia was one of the only stores in the US carrying the bag. I remember explaining to one of the stores retail assistants that I was looking for a Guppyfriend and their look of bemusement. I think they originally thought I was looking for a fishy pal…
Fast forward to 2019, and today, I’d like to share some thoughts on my guppyfriend washing bag and some information about microplastics.
What’s So Bad About Microplastics?
Microplastics have become transport systems for pollutants because they act as a sponge and transfer a cocktail of chemicals to fish and other aquatic species.
Due to their size, microplastics get eaten by animals like shellfish and the plastics slowly work their way through the food chain until they’re found in human feces (this was reported last year). Scientists have speculated as to whether microplastics will eventually get into our bloodstream. It’s currently unknown what these foreign bodies will do to us and how they may impact our health.
Wastewater treatment plants and washing machine filters can’t filter our microplastics and that is why we need to use something like a guppyfriend when washing clothing made from synthetic materials.
My New Pal, The Guppyfriend
The guppyfriend catches the fibers that break as clothing is being washed. Think of how a tumble dryer filter collects lint and needs to be cleaned out. This is a similar process. As you can see from the below picture, the guppyfriend looks like a big sack. Clothing made from synthetic fabric such as workout gear or clothing made of a blend of fibers (and some aren’t natural) get placed in the bag before being added to everything washed. Patagonia is selling them for $29.99, which takes it out of the budget for many people. I’d love to see a ‘generic version’ become an affordable staple in laundromats and laundry rooms.
Once the garments have been washed, you take the clothing out of the bag and check for any debris.
I usually shake mine over the bin.
Sometimes I don’t find anything and other days I’ll find a clump of grey in one of the bag crevices.
At first, I was worried that the bag wasn’t working properly. I had to remind myself that the microfibres should be “micro”. Over time, I’ve noticed that certain garments create more waste (e.g fleece hoodies) and older garments don’t shed much.
My friend Libby, over at Maw For The World is doing a study on the microplastics she collects from her guppyfriend. I’m following it with much interest and you may want to also.
Another Prospective Friend
The Cora Ball, is another way you can reduce your microplastic production. The ball looks like a laundry ball and it collects microfibres while your clothes are washing. Water flows in and out of the ball whilst the ball “stalks” catch rouge microfibres (similar to how coral catches food). Having removed microfibres from my guppyfriend, I can’t imagine the Cora Ball to catch and trap such small fibres successfully. I haven’t tried one and the $37.99 price tag puts me off.
Another (more permanent) option would be to install a Filtrol filter to your washing machine. As your washing machine flushes out dirty water, the Filtrol catches the microfibers also being flushed out. I live in a rented apartment and so I’ve not invested in one of these. Hopefully, all washing machines in the future, will have these filters built into them. In the meantime, you can find them on Amazon or on the Filtrol site for ~$139.99.
A Plastic Ocean
If you’re interested in learning more about general plastic pollution, I recommend the documentary A Plastic Ocean on Netflix. Disclaimer – it made me cry, but it’s definitely worth watching!
*This post was not sponsored by The Guppyfriend Washingbag. I’m just a bit of a fan.
This is such a good idea. Do you know how long the guppyfriend bags last? X
I’m not sure. I’ve emailed the guys who make it though and will get back to you when I hear back 🙂
These products seem awesome! I’ll have to give them a shot, any product that is doing their part to help the environment is worth trying, in my book. These seem to fill a need I didn’t even know I had! I want to give a shout-out to the company I work for, Texture Clothing (www.textureclothing.com) We are a small label that designs and manufactures our clothing using hemp and organic cotton here in the U.S. We care a lot about doing good for the planet, so it’s always exciting to see other companies doing the same!
I’m so pleased you agree and I appreciate your shoutout. I’ll check Texture Clothing out now 🙂
What proof do you have that the bag is collecting plastic and not cloth fibers?
I’m not sure I have any proof that the bag isn’t also probably collecting natural fibers. When I dig out what the bag collects, it looks like a combination of fibers. I have noticed that it usually feels kind of crunchy. Perhaps that is the plastic mixed in with the bundle of stuff? I’m not sure. Ideally, I’d like to get Filtrol (a microfibre filter) attached to my washing which is meant to work better. I live in a rented apartment and so I can’t do that at the moment. I’ll be updating this post to include the Filtrol as an option for others though.