Biodegradable plastic in clothing doesn’t break down nearly as quickly as hoped – new research

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Plastic pollution has emerged as one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. Over 100 million tonnes of plastic enters the environment each year, with more than 10 million tonnes ending up in our oceans. These plastics break down into harmful microplastic particles so small they can be consumed by wildlife.

We all recognise discarded bottles and bags as plastic waste. But the synthetic fibres that are woven into our clothing – polyester, nylon, acrylic and others – are equally problematic. Every year, more than 60 million tonnes of plastic fabric is produced, a considerable amount of which ultimately finds it way to landfill.

One promising approach to tackle this crisis is the use of “biodegradable” plastics. These plastics are designed to break down naturally into gases and water, which are then released back into the environment without causing long-lasting damage.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2023

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