Plastic waste has captured the attention of the world with many countries banning the use of single-use plastics in order to prevent marine pollution. Plastic is considered one of the major polluters of oceans around the world as a lot of debris wind up at sea, from there it gathers in huge floating islands and entangles marine life from turtles to crabs. According to a report, the major source of marine pollution is microscopic bits of polyester, nylon and acrylic which are released in the oceans through the washing of clothes.
According to a 2015 report published in Ellen McArthur foundation, it is estimated that half-a-million tonnes of microfibres leached into waterways every year, with 53 million tonnes of new textiles produced annually. The report says, "plastic-based fibres, often called synthetic fibres are usually produced from oil and account for two-thirds of the material input for textiles production. The most common materials are polyester (55%), followed by nylon (5%), and acrylic (2%)."
Plastic-based fibres use large quantities of non-renewable feedstocks and are energy-intensive to produce. During use, textiles made from plastic-based fibres shed plastic microfibres when washed that can end up in the environment or the ocean. Plastic-based fibres are not biodegradable and therefore remain in the environment for a long time, the report added. Microscopic plastics, according to the report is harmful to microscopic creatures in the oceans.
Marine pollution has become a major concern for environmentalists all over the world. More than half a million hermit crabs have been killed after becoming trapped in plastic debris on two remote island groups, prompting concern that the deaths could be part of a global species decline. In early December, a dead sperm whale was found on an island of Scotland with a 100 kg litter ball in its stomach filled with plastic debris, fishing nets, and other pollutants.