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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is your recycled Patagonia fleece hoodie hurting the environment?

For years and years people concerned with the environment have been reminded to recycle as much of the waste that they generate as possible. By sending waste aluminum cans, paper, glass, and plastic to recycling centers, those concerned with environmental degradation felt comfortable that they were doing their part to reduce their contribution of waste.

In addition, many of these same people looked to buy new things that were made of recycled material. Some of these products are fleece and other types of clothing made from recycled plastic and other synthetic materials. One such company, Patagonia, has made the sale of such clothing a key part of its business plan.

Well, did you know that by purchasing such clothing that you may be contributing to one of the biggest environmental problems of which most people are unaware?

Many of you have heard of recent legislation to ban plastic microbeads in consumer products. Used in such items as exfoliants and other skin and body care products, these pieces of plastic are so small that they aren't collected at waste water treatment plants and enter the environment in treated waste water sent to oceans and rivers. Once there, they can enter the food chain leading to more environmental problems, both to wildlife and the animals (including humans) who eat them.

Similarly, it now appears that fabrics made from recycled plastics are causing the same, if not bigger, problem. When these articles of clothing are washed, tiny fibers break off during the washing process (think lint like material) and get sent along with the washing machine waste water to a treatment plant. Just like microbeads, many of these fibers (up to 35%) are too small to be collected and enter the environment with the plant's effluent.

The following article discusses the problem in more detail:

Patagonia admits there's a problem with synthetic clothes

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