Clothes and washing machines both contribute much more to the infamous plastic soup in the oceans than previously thought. New research shows that, per wash,not thousands but millions of tiny synthetic fibers are released into the water. Large numbers of these then slip undetected through the water treatment plants, only to land via the food chain back onto our own plates. So all of us inadvertently contribute to this rapidly growing environmental problem.

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Major culprits

Clothing is a source of microplastics; acrylic, nylon and polyester especially are major culprits. With acrylic, more than 3,000 fibers per gram can be released in one wash. And one fleece jacket of 680 grams loses almost a million fibers at a time. Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “Or how about a pair of 55 gram nylon socks … Almost 136,000 fibers per wash…”

These are the shocking interim results of an EU funded project Life+ Program: Mermaids, Ocean Clean Wash ( For nearly three years, the National Research Council (NCR) from Italy, LEITAT and Polysistec from Spain, and the Dutch Plastic Soup Foundation have worked together to look for causes and solutions.