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How plastic from clothing gets into seafood

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 Biology   |   Environmental   |   Science
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Microfibers, used to make things like yoga pants, are the ocean’s tiniest problem.

Correction: At 1:04, we mistakenly suggested that rayon is made from plastic. In fact, it is derived from cellulose.

To go deeper on this topic, make sure to read Vox science reporter Brian Resnick’s article on Vox.com: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/19/17800654/clothes-plastic-pollution-polyester-washing-machine

Help us make more ambitious videos by joining the Vox Video Lab. It gets you exclusive perks, like livestream Q&As with all the Vox creators, a badge that levels up over time, and video extras bringing you closer to our work! Learn more at http://bit.ly/video-lab

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Sources:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111913
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0080-1
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X16307639
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111913
https://www.nature.com/articles/srep14340#f3
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749116311666#undfig1
https://www.nature.com/articles/srep33997
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/345/6193/144

When you think of marine pollution, you might picture an oil-slicked seal struggling to breathe on a blackened beach, or a turtle looping in circles with the plastic collar of a six-pack wrapped around its neck. In the past, those powerful images have generated interest and resources for fighting marine pollution, but now a new, much tinier threat is emerging. Microplastics — meaning any plastic object smaller than five millimeters — constitute the vast majority of plastic particles polluting marine habitats. Of those microplastics, a large share are microfibers: tiny strands of plastic that are woven into fabric used to make clothing. These fabrics, known by names like polyester and nylon, are cheap to produce, comfortable to wear, and since arriving on the market in the late 1940s, companies have been using more and more of them. Every time we do laundry, a small amount of microfibers are separated from clothes made from these materials. Since those pieces of plastic are extremely small, they're able to make their way through water treatment centers and into marine resources. Once they reach marine habitats, the ocean’s tiniest creatures consume them, and microfibers work their way up the food chain. Eventually, they reach us.

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