HOW TO CLEAN CLOTHES WITHOUT MESSING UP THE OCEAN
Unfortunately, fixing the plastic problem isn’t as simple as finding plastic free washing powder. The unsettling news is that when we wash man-made fabrics (synthetics, such as polyester, lycra, nylon) the fabric sheds teeny tiny fibres that can’t be filtered out. These make their way directly into our water-ways, and ultimately the ocean. Some estimates say that micro-fibre-waste accounts for up to a third of all plastic in the ocean, which is INSANE. There, the smallest sea-creatures ingest the fibres and plastic enters our food chain, with as as yet unknown consequences for human health. If you’ve got three spare minutes (I’m sure you do) watch the brilliant Story of Stuff explain this far better than I just have.
The first, most obvious, but not always realistic solution is to avoid synthetic fabrics. It’s a tricky one though, as there are pros and cons around the sustainability and ethics of most fabrics. I’m not expert on this - Fashion Revolution is a good resource. But fabrics to avoid are things like nylon, polyester, acrylic (think gym kit, fleeces and nearly everything in H&M). Things to look out for are bamboo, hemp, organic cotton (although this is complicated) and wool (again, this depends on your ethical red lines).
For the synthetics we already own: Wash less often (duh). Wash at lower temperatures. Wash on a gentler spin cycle. And DEFINITELY get a brilliant Guppy Friend, a big drawstring clothes-washing bag that catches micro-fibres - just don’t rinse it after using it.
This should be on our must-have list, up there with a keep-cup and water bottle!
The premise is a strong one. You buy the original plastic bottle (or use your own, they provide instructions on how) and then just order refills which get mailed in letterbox friendly pouches.
The pouches aren’t recyclable - which meant I was initially a bit un-keen. But they now operate a zero-to-landfill pouch return program, so store ‘em and send ‘em back.
Where this works best, is for products that are concentrated - so one pouch, mixed with water, makes five refill bottles. Or with the washing powder / dishwasher tabs, where the refill packaging is compostable.
You’ll find refill stations for laundry products in all the bulk stores, plus many health food shops / eco stores. There’s a good list of bulk stores here, although it will be almost immediately out of date as so many new one’s are popping up all the time!
You can also do what we’ve done, and empty out a kitchen cupboard and give it over to setting up your own in-house refill shop.
Lots of household and bathroom products are available in massive five-litre sizes, not dissimilar to those in bulk stores.
Look out for Bio D, Ecoleaf and Ecover (there’s a big selection here). We’ve gradually built up quite a collection so if you’re ever in the area, BYO bottle and I’ll top you up :-)
Isn’t it funny how we sometimes think we’ve made great progress and then realise that things were better the way they were?
It hadn’t even crossed my mind until very recently that the reason plastic has become so omnipresent, is partly because we've got all these things in liquid form that we didn’t used to have. Soap became shower gel. Washing powder became liquid.
Makes sense then that the answer is to be found by looking backwards to what our Mum’s did.
If you’re not rolling your eyes at my stupidity, maybe just see if you can find your favourite laundry brand in powder form.
This is very little I need to write here (but I’ve got a grey block to fill, so um).
This is a great little product. Just wet the stain and massage a bit of this stuff in. Works well.
Get it from Boobalou, a great online shop selling lots of plastic free eco things.
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