Plastic Bottles, Fleece & Face Scrub

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Post by Consumer Alert on Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:55 am

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Cut out the plastic bottles and you won't NEED to recycle them. They are recycled into fleece which is good, but also not so good. Fleece sheds fibers that are winding up as micro plastic litter in our oceans. Buy wool or cotton instead.

Fleeced again: How microplastic causes macro problems for the ocean

By Clare Leschin-Hoar
On Black Friday, outdoor retailer Patagonia took out a full-page ad in The New York Times asking readers to “buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime.” Beside a photo of their iconic fleece jacket, the headline read: “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” And, while their message about retail consumption undoubtedly made a splash, there may be yet another reason to take a pass on that cozy, modern outerware. Besides Patagonia’s confession that the process of creating the R2® Jacket leaves behind “two-thirds of its weight in waste” on its way to their Reno warehouse — it turns out that tossing the jacket in the washer causes it to leave behind something else entirely — thousands of tiny plastic threads.
According to a study published in November’s Environmental Science and Technology, nearly 2,000 polyester fibers can shake loose from a single piece of clothing in the wash and, unfortunately, those tiny plastic bits are making their way into the ocean.
Ecologist Mark Browne, University College Dublin, and several colleagues gathered sand samples from 18 beaches on six continents for analysis. It turns out that every beach tested contained microplastics (particles about the size of a piece of long grain of rice or smaller). Of the samples collected, nearly 80 percent were polyester or acrylic, though without further research, it’s impossible to know exactly which type of clothing — whether it’s your stretchy yoga pants or that super-soft fleece blanket — is causing the most problems. Currently, textile manufacturers are not required to test their fabrics for shedding.
According to Science, “Not a single beach was free of the colorful synthetic lint. Each cup of sand contained at least two fibers and as many as 31. The most contaminated samples came from areas with the highest population density, suggesting cities were an important source of the lint.”
Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which focuses on plastics in the marine system, says he’s been concerned about microplastics from all sources, including those body scrub microbeads that are as ubiquitous as the multi-blade holiday Remington razor this time of year. What worries Moore most is where those microparticles may ultimately end up.

Plastic Bottles, Fleece & Face Scrub

Along with all the plastic debris that’s big enough to spot on the beach, there’s new concern that fleece sheds tiny particles into the ocean via washing machines.Photo:“Polyester is heavier than water and pollutes bottom sediments where most marine life lives,” he says. Once in the marine system, they get taken up by filter feeders like clams, mussels, and small fish like anchovies, sardines, etc., which are then eaten by larger fish.
That concerns Browne too. His work with shellfish has shown that once ingested by animals, microplastic can be taken up and stored by tissues and cells. This bioaccumulation of pollutants can have negative consequences for wildlife and humans.
Courtney Arthur, research coordinator with NOAA Marine Debris Program, says the issue is on NOAA’s radar, and expects research on microplastics and the effects on marine life to be a hot topic among scientists over the next few years. But for now, she says, the bottom line is still unclear.
“We don’t know the extent of injury at this point. We do know some marine animals ingest plastics, even down to mollusks like mussels and clams. We know it’s possible they could be accumulating in the food chain,” says Arthur. “All spectrum of marine life has the potential to take in these small particles, but at this point, it’s hard to say how much harm is being done.”
Although Browne and Arthur are cautious about making a direct link between microplastics and harm to marine life, there’s little disagreement that the recent increase in plastics pollution in the oceans is alarming. Several years ago, scientists discovered that plastics could break down at lower temperatures, leaking chemicals like Bisphenol A into the water. 
So just how do we prevent the problem from getting worse? Moore says the place to filter the microfibers out is at the washing machine, well before particles move through the wastewater system and eventually into the ocean. So we contacted the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers to see if the industry had the capability of filtering microparticles before they reach the wastewater stream. Although their spokesperson did speak with Grist, they did not get back to us with a statement.
While Browne’s study focuses on the washing machine, Arthur also points out that simply wearing synthetic garments can also cause shedding.
He hopes designers of clothing and washing machines will focus on ways to reduce the release of fibers, and says further research is needed to develop methods for removing microplastic from sewage.
“Both government and industry need to work with us to determine the hazards natural and synthetic fibers pose for the health of humans and wildlife, so we can choose fibers that pose less of a risk,” says Browne.
So with months of bone chilling weather ahead, are you willing to swap your super soft fleece for something more sustainable? We asked both Browne and Arthur if they still own synthetics, and both said yes.
“I have some fleece, but with this type of research on our radar, I think twice before wearing it,” said Arthur.

Facial Scrub - Opt for Baking Soda instead

Why Those Little Plastic Microbeads in Your Soap Are So Bad

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Sarah Zhang

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This week, Illinois became the first state in the country to ban exfoliating plastic beads. Good for Illinois. Plastic microbeads have been running off by the billions into the Great Lakes and the oceans, causing huge amounts of environmental damage. Yet most consumers didn't even realize they existed.
Marine biologists have warned for a while now that dumping tiny pieces of polyethylene plastic down the drain into the ocean will not end well. But since a study by the nonprofit 5 Gyres Institute found rampant pollution in the Great Lakes in 2013, a campaign to ban the beads has been gaining traction in the U.S. (proving once again we care about the issues geographically closest to us.) In addition to Illinois's ban, New York and California legislatures are considering similar legislation.
So what's so bad about beads?

Plastic is like a tiny sponge for toxins

The density of plastic pieces in the Great Lakes surprised the researchers. "In fact, I found more in the Great Lakes than in any sample anywhere in the world's oceans," Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres Institute's research director told CBC at the time. Downstream of cities, they found nearly 500,000 pieces of plastic in a square kilometer of the lake, which is only unremarkable if you consider there are 330,000 plastic beads in a single bottle on Clean & Clear facial scrub. The beads are also common in toothpastes and body washes.
The microbeads are, as their name promises, small—as small as 0.355 millimeters across in some cases. The fear is that these plastic beads are just the right size for fish and other aquatic creatures to mistake them for food. The beads could physically clog up their stomachs and prevent them from getting adequate nutrition.
Another worry is that plastic is very good at absorbing other toxic pollutants in the water, like PCBs, pesticides, and motor oil. Then as smaller creatures are eaten by bigger creatures, the toxins get concentrated up the food chain. A study of lugworms in the Atlantic suggests that toxins from plastic do indeed make it into the bodies of creatures who mistakenly eat them.
Plastic Bottles, Fleece & Face Scrub  Gcpticaighr8vb5h1ka4Expand

Can't we just filter out the little plastic pieces?

Every so often, a designer will have a bright idea to build a water vacuum to suck up little floating pieces of plastic. Let's just say these ideas are much easier to render than to implement. A key challenge is that plastic isn't the only tiny thing in the water. How do you guarantee that you scoop up plastic but not zooplankton, the tiny creatures that are the foundation of aquatic food chains?
The size of these plastic beads also makes them a challenge for sewer treatment plants, which are of course supposed to clean effluent before it's discharged into the waterways. But many plants filter out solids using gravity, which doesn't remove the floating plastic beads. It's much easier to stop dumping plastic down our drains than to remove them from the water system.

But microbeads aren't the only plastic pieces we have to worry about.

With a name like the Great Pacific garbage patch, you'd expect a great mat of plastic bottles, wrappers, and debris floating around in the ocean. Nope. While ocean currents do indeed concentrate floating plastic in gyres around the world, you wouldn't be able to see any garbage looking off the side of a boat.
The ocean is a rough place, you see, and any plastic that makes it to the middle of the Pacific has been broken down into little tiny pieces—in the end, not so different from the microbeads we're worrying about. When it come to plastic ocean pollution, at least, this means that banning microbeads are really only a small step.
But microbeads in soap are especially low-hanging fruit for this type of pollution. Large manufacturers like Unilever, L'Oréal, and Johnson & Johnson have made various voluntary commitments to phase out the plastic beads, too.
In retrospect, it's easy to ask why the hell we ever thought it was a good idea pour little plastic pieces down the drain the first place. In reality, we just never thought about it.
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Post by xoPeonyPoppyxo on Sun Sep 07, 2014 8:11 pm

This article really brought to light some details I would have never thought of. I absolutely hated how may plastic bottles we were going through just in bathroom toiletries like shampoo, and body washes etc. I switched to bar soap and I still buy a giant bottle of Dr. Bronners, but I wish they sold those refill pouches. I think those are a little better than the bottle itself. I have a Fair Trade company that sells clothing made from organic cotton and recycled plastic. I wonder if those shirts drop fibers too? I suppose they would, although maybe in smaller doses.


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