How to avoid microplastics – Plastic-free laundry detergents to protect our planet

avoiding microplasticsIf we said the phrase ‘plastic in the ocean’, what comes to mind? Turtles choking on plastic bags maybe. Or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a floating mountain of plastic bottles, food containers, carrier bags and yoghurt pots. But one of the biggest plastic issues is one that’s a lot harder to picture. Microplastics.

At their biggest, these tiny fragments of plastic are less than 5mm wide. The vast majority are actually too small for the human eye to see, but they can cause serious issues once they get into the water system.

Some microplastics are made when larger plastic breaks down in the sea into smaller fragments. Others are tiny to begin with – think clothes fibres and microbeads.


Why are microplastics so bad?

Microplastics aren’t effectively filtered out by waste treatment plants, so they can end up in rivers and oceans.

Fish and other sea creatures swallow microplastics, sometimes because they mistake the fragments for food. Microplastics also get stuck in the gills of fish, making it harder for them to breathe.

It’s believed that plastic pollution kills 100,000 marine mammals every year, 1 million seabirds, and likely many more fish.

And let’s not forget that not all microplastics are destined for the ocean. Some end up in our drinking water, the food chain and the air we breathe. They’ve been found in human and animal blood samples, and even in breast milk.


What’s laundry got to do with microplastics?

Around 35% of microplastic pollution comes from laundry. Each and every wash load can release up to 700,000 plastic fibres from our clothes into the water system. What’s more, big brand laundry detergents often contain microplastics. One study into 300 laundry detergents found that 119 of them contained microscopic pieces of plastic.  


How to avoid microplastics

  1. Try to buy clothes made from 100% natural materials, like cotton, bamboo and wool. This is easier said than done – even eco-brands often use some plastic to help clothes to keep their shape.

  2. Invest in a specialist laundry bag for any clothes that contain polyester and other plastic fibres. Clothes Doctor’s Protective Laundry Bag is made from cotton and helps to trap microplastics so they can’t wash into the waste system. It also protects delicate clothing from being damaged in your washing machine.

  3. Look for 100% plastic-free products.

  4. Switch to a plastic-free laundry detergent. (See below.)


Natural laundry products

Clothes Doctor Eco Wash

As well as a laundry bag, Clothes Doctor make a range of natural laundry detergent detergents, all of which come in non-plastic, recyclable packaging.

Shop Clothes Doctor Laundry Detergents


True Earth Laundry Eco-Strips

Zero-waste, hypoallergenic, biodegradable, effective and super easy to use… there’s an awful lot to like about True Earth Laundry Eco-Strips. We think this customer summed them up rather well: “The ultimate plastic saving product, no mess and results are as good as any laundry detergent I’ve used.” Just pop a strip in with your washing and let it works its magic.

Shop True Earth Laundry Eco-Strips


Homethings Eco Laundry Pods

There’s no denying that laundry tabs are handy, but they’re also pretty toxic for the environment. If you like the simplicity of a laundry tab but want a greener version, Homethings Eco Laundry Pods could be the perfect solution. They’re non-toxic, vegan, cruelty-free and made in a factory powered by renewable energy.

Shop Homethings Eco Laundry Pods


Reusable laundry products

Reusable laundry products reduce the need for single-use plastic packaging. (And they can save you a lot of money in the process.) Most come housed in plastic, but Supabee’s Hexawash is completely plastic-free. The pouch is filled with magnesium pellets, which react with water to create a natural cleansing agent. You can even skip the rinse cycle, so you’ll save water too.


Fighting the war on plastic

If you’re cutting down on plastic, you’ll also want to consider packaging. You won’t find any plastic bubble wrap in your Big Green Smile box. Instead, we use 100% biodegradable packaging peanuts to protect your products while they’re winging their way to you. We even use biodegradable parcel tape.


Read about how Big Green Smile is tackling plastic pollution.