episode 12

Down the drain - 2

In this episode, we continue on One-Health exploring microfibres that are shed from our clothes and the chemicals we use to wash them…

Fashion.  We love fashion – the colours, the textures. And, often, it is so incredibly cheap! How could we resist? It almost seems too good to be true, and of course, as for many such things, perhaps it is. We hear more and more about the social costs of fast fashion – the child labour, the sweatshops but in this episode we’re focussing on the environmental impacts of making and disposing of clothing.

Would you believe that the average US of American throws away 36 kg of clothes each year, and the average European, 11 kg? When you consider that 7,000 litres of water (not to mention energy, dyes and other chemicals, plastics and labour) are used to produce a pair of jeans, such waste becomes even more shocking. Still, less than 1% of all apparel is recycled into new clothing – the microfibres and chemicals in the textiles limit their potential for recycling – even where the facilities exist.

In Down the Drain 2, We speak again with microbiologist and water resources expert Dr Eunice Ubomba-Jaswa about how fashion, fast or not, affects our water systems – their quality and quantity – and thus, our health, and the environment. We explore these issues, and look at what we can do to reduce the impacts of fashion production, wearing and washing.

The impacts of our fashion addiction begin when the textile is made. Growing cotton, linen and other natural fibres requires water; as does manufacturing synthetic fibres. Manufacturing fibres and cloth not only use water, but also a number of chemicals, many of which end up in water systems. The clothes that arrive in your home still have chemicals on them, which can end up on your skin. Washing clothes uses water, releases chemicals, and, we are increasingly aware, microfibres by the billions. 

Washing – check out “The Laundry Guy” Patrick Richardson – on the internet or his show on Discovery+ and has a book out too – he says disobey the labels: 

  • wash less frequently and spot clean (except for underwear. wash underwear in every use!)…a quality garment survives about 50 washes
  • use less detergent – in fact use soap flakes…a little is enough…more damages your clothes
  • use plant-based detergents – “if you can’t eat it, don’t use it on your clothes”
  • no need for fabric softener – it coats the fabric, removes the natural feeling….towels are crunchy because conditioners and drier sheets reduces their absorbence…at JTD we’ve been championing vinegar…
  • half vinegar half water removes most stains and use oxygen bleach
  • wash in the shortest cycle and colder water
  • don’t use dry cleaning (most dry clean clothes can be washed…”sheep and goat live outside”!)

In the next episode we cover how businesses are better organizing themselves…

and we’ll return to textiles and fashion in the future!

*** The views we and our guests express in this podcast are our own ***