New York: Polyester and other synthetic fibres like nylon are major contributors of micro plastics pollution in the environment, say researchers and suggest switching to biosynthetic fibres to prevent this. Melik Demirel, Professor at the Pennsylvania State University in the United States said, “These materials, during production, processing and after use, break down and release micro fibres that can now be found in everything and everyone.” Synthetic fibres are petroleum-based products, unlike natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk, which are recyclable and biodegradable.
Mixed fibres that contain both natural and synthetic fibres are difficult or costly to recycle. In the oceans, pieces of microscopic plastic are consumed by plants and animals and enter the human food chain through harvested fish.
In the study, Mr. Demirel suggested few things to prevent this: minimising the use of synthetic fibres and switching to natural fibres such as wool, cotton, silk and linen, even though synthetic fibres are less expensive and natural fibres have other environmental costs, such as water and land-use issues; large scale use of bacteria that could aid in biodegradation of the fibres for reuse; substituting synthetic fibres with biosynthetic fibres, that are both recyclable and biodegradable; and blending synthetic fibres with natural fibres to lend them durability while also allowing the blends to be recycled.
Mr. Demirel agrees that getting bio-designed clothing into consumer markets may take some time. But if the production processes can be scaled, he says, the benefits would outweigh the challenges. He said,
Protein- or sugar-based fibers are naturally biodegradable, and nature knows how to recycle them
Bacteria that consume plastics do exist. However, they are currently at the academic research phase and will take some time to gain industrial momentum. The study was presented at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the US.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.