I’m no fan of synthetic fabrics. They’re joyless textiles. I hate the feeling of synthetic fabrics in my hands, and the scent of pressed polyester makes me ill. Silk, cotton, linen, hemp, wool, cashmere and tencel all have particular pleasant scents but synthetics reek and ruin my sewing experience. They don’t press reliably, and inhibit the sewing. (tried gathering on polyester wovens, anyone? Ick.) Besides, I find synthetics don’t look nice as long as naturals. They pill and wear more quickly, and many synthetics become “plasticky” over time.
My ears pricked up when I heard about a study on the news that directly links synthetic fabrics to ocean pollution:
“A new study looking at plastic in the marine environment has made a surprising discovery… The scientists found that the water in washing machines…is full of tiny particles of plastic. They calculated that every time you wash a synthetic shirt… around 2,000 microparticles of plastic are released.”
That’s not a lot per shirt, but it’s constant and unrelenting- I wonder how many shirts of synthetic fibers are washed every day? The microparticles make their way to bodies of water and eventually the ocean, where they make their way into the food chain. So what? The news story doesn’t point out the main problem with (micro)plastic pollution: (quoted from the New York Times)
“PCBs, DDT and other toxic chemicals cannot dissolve in water, but the plastic absorbs them like a sponge. Fish that feed on plankton ingest the tiny plastic particles. Scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation say that fish tissues contain some of the same chemicals as the plastic. The scientists speculate that toxic chemicals are leaching into fish tissue from the plastic they eat.
The researchers say that when a predator — a larger fish or a person — eats the fish that eats the plastic, that predator may be transferring toxins to its own tissues, and in greater concentrations since toxins from multiple food sources can accumulate in the body.”
So microparticles soaked in whatever toxins they wash through become absorbed into the bloodstreams of marine animals and potentially end up in our own bodies. That’s the circle of life, folks…
Sometimes when I hear stories like this, I feel overwhelmed. What can I do? Why is every aspect of “modern” life excessively poisonous? Is there any possible way we can reverse or heal the damage that has been done? Will my daughter be able to eat fish when she’s my age, or will they be too toxic?
I keep my eyes and ears open for stories like these. If nothing else, it justifies my dislike of synthetic textiles. I suppose all I can do is continue to stay aware of the world around me, and pay attention to innovative ways of dealing with the toxic plastic pollution curse:
This is a new kind of housing being developed in Nigeria. Builders pay young men to pick up plastic bottles and fill them with dirt- which keeps the young men out of trouble and cleans the streets. The buildings are bullet proof, earthquake resistant and the dirt and plastic insulates the houses well and cheaply. This is the flip side of plastic pollution- innovation, invention, making do with what’s to hand.
Difficult circumstances can bring out latent creativity in people. How interesting, how curious, to think that in the future people may live in houses made of our parents’, grandparents’ and our own rubbish. In fact, we may have no other choice. Make Do and Mend.
At least I won’t be wearing polyester when that happens.
What good, interesting, big and small ways to re-use garbage have you run across lately? What are your thoughts on the synthetic fabric issue? It is just one more damaging thing we can’t help, or another reason to eschew synthetic fabrics? Or both?
(I know I said I’d make a post on necklines, and I will! I just wanted to share this, I thought it was interesting.)
(Thanks for all your kind words about the Sisters of Edwardia blouse. I’m at work on another one- see my header. I still need a tester in size 50 or 55- so if you’d like to play please email me.)