Microplastics are exactly what they sound like: tiny pieces of plastic that are less than five millimeters long. And they’re everywhere. “They’re in the water, soil, and the air we breathe,” Alex McGoran, a PhD student and microplastics expert, told the National History Museum. “We use plastic in almost everything, including chairs, carpets, and clothes. As we move around, we shed fibers, which float in the air and spread.”
Take your clothes, for example. Most clothing sheds microfibers, which are made up of plastic polymers (like polyesters) or naturally occurring fibers (like cotton). It’s estimated that synthetic textiles are responsible for 35 percent of the microplastics in the ocean. Whenever you wash your laundry, these microplastics shed from your clothes, adding to the mounting plastic pollution.
Although it’s difficult to say exactly how many fibers are shed per garment, studies estimate the amount to be anywhere from 1,900 to a million. These toxic microfibers make their way into the ocean and our local food chain. Small fish eats plastic, big fish eats small fish eats plastic, and human eats big fish eats small fish… eats plastic.
Shop now: Cora Ball, $38
While microplastics are a big problem, there’s a simple solution that can help: using the Cora Ball ($38). Just toss the laundry ball into your washer when you’re ready to do another load, and the number of microfibers shed will be reduced. The Cora Ball’s name is inspired by corals, which are natural filters in the ocean. Accordingly, the Cora Ball prevents microfibers from breaking off clothes, as well as collects microfibers that have already formed into fuzz. Instead of winding up in waterways, they can be disposed of correctly.
So, how well does the ball work? In a past study, researcher Imogen Napper, PhD, found the Cora Ball is effective at reducing 31 percent of the microfibers produced in one wash. That means by using this tool, you’re keeping more microplastics out of the ocean, lakes, and rivers. It also protects your clothes from being destroyed in the wash. Always a plus.
When you’re running a cycle with a Cora Ball, the website recommends doing so in cold water with low spin cycle speeds. That way, fewer microfibers will wind up draining out of your washing machine. Who knew adding one additional step to your laundry routine could make such a big difference?