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Environment & Science

Ocean plastic joined by microplastic; new study describes surprising source of detritus

Vintage Patagonia.
Vintage Patagonia.

Hey, you know that gyre of plastic crap we all finally started paying attention to in the middle of the ocean? At least you can see it. Researchers in Australia published a study finding that beaches and coastal areas are covered with plastic, too: just really tiny pieces of it. Microplastic is less than a millimeter in size, made from polyester, nylon, and other plastic that washes off your clothes and into the laundry. 

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation story is here. The research is published in Environmental Science and Technology.

This reminded me of Patagonia, which has for almost 20 years recycled nylon and other plasticky fibers in its fleeces. They even ask customers to return worn out clothes to reuse them. The idea is to keep that stuff out of landfills. But even if you do keep stuff out of landfills, little pieces of your clothes that break off in the wash and are flushed out to sea end up under your feet when you're walking on the sand. 

Which just means, maybe there's something to my cranky dad's ongoing lifelong series of lectures entitled, "Let me tell you how old this piece of clothing is." He might be shedding his Patagonia fleece into the wastewater system, but that's got to max out at some point. Right?