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CALIFORNIA – Researchers from the US have calculated that the total amount of synthetic microfibres which have entered the wider environment as we wash our clothes is 5.6 million tonnes since we first started wearing polyester and nylon garments in the 1950s. They believe just over half this mass – 2.9 million tonnes – has likely ended up in our rivers and seas. This is the equivalent of seven billion fleece jackets.

Fast fashion’s onward march means around half of all synthetic fibres were shed in the last decade due to the growing size of our wardrobes. In 1990, say the researchers, the global average stock of garments per capita was 8kg. By 2016 it was 26kg per head.

The researchers claim shed fibres are ending up in land settings, and warn that improving the availability of modern wastewater treatment infrastructure is only going to accentuate this trend.

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