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That sinking feeling...

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Photo of water in a sink
Photo 1

Down the drain

In the Northern Hemisphere, cyclones and water, and other objects not fixed to the ground, move in a clockwise direction, the further they move away from the equator. And in the Southern Hemisphere the opposite is the case. This is called the Coriolis effect and is a result of the Coriolis force. We have all seen this curious effect to some extent or another, watching water go down the drain in our sinks. And thank heaven for sinks! Almost every home in the First World has one, and we wouldn't dream of building a house today without this necessary unit of our kitchen and bathroom.

The sink, in the form we know it in today, is a fairly new invention, only made possible with the development of indoor plumbing. It has made our lives easier and naturally, we take it for granted; no need to fill it with a bucket from the nearest well or river, and no need to bail it out when finished, as everything washes away down the drain. Everything! We never give our plumbing a second thought, until that is, it packs up.

So where does this water (and everything in it) go to? It all goes down our drainage pipes to sewage treatment works, where the 'foreign objects' are filtered out and where a treatment process removes the bacteria, making it safe for us to drink. It is then sent to reservoirs, rivers, and the sea. End of story. Well, not actually...

'It'll all come out in the wash'

We've all heard this old saying, which means that the truth always comes out into the open, eventually. But this is a literal statement when it comes to washing our clothes, bedding, and other items made of textiles. Most of the world's clothing is made from synthetic fibres nowadays. Granted, who doesn't like the idea of clothing that's relatively cheap, doesn't need much ironing (if any at all), dries in super quick time, and is less likely to bleed its colour when washed. The most common synthetic fibres used in the fashion industry today are nylon, acrylic, polyester, polyamides, and polyester-cotton blend - and they are all made from plastic. Each time clothing and other items (made from these synthetic materials) are washed, a tiny amount is 'shedded' into the water. These deposits are known as microfibres, and are a form of microplastics. Hopefully, by now we all know about the serious problem of microplastics in our rivers, waterways and seas, and the irrevocable harm being done to the creatures, both big and small, who live in these polluted rivers and seas. Microfibres are a growing concern, as they not only pollute our waterways and oceans, but can be carried on air currents for weeks on end around the earth. They are even being found on the highest of our mountains and in the deepest of our oceans. Food for thought, isn't it?

Photo of sun shining through tree with a lake and river in the foreground
Photo 2

'You cannot step into the same river twice'

by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus

I think one of the most beautiful things about planet earth when seen from space, is the amount of blue that can be seen, flecked with the white of clouds.

From space we see only the oceans but the closer we get, we see lakes, deltas, estuaries, rivers, canals... And if you think about it, it is beautiful not only because it is blue, or solely because of the plant and animal life that live in it, but because it moves.

Who doesn't marvel at the awesome beauty and power of the sea in a storm, or a babbling brook as it tumbles over river pebbles, or tidal bores, or the simple ebb and flow of the tide on a beach? Whatever ends up in our waterways, rivers and seas, moves with them.

Photos 3,4 &5

We cannot change the way we live (or what we wear), overnight. It would be financially impossible for most of us, even if we all wanted to. But we can change the way we think about things that affect our world, and especially our rivers and oceans. We can learn to consider our effect on our planet. Think twice, you could say, before choosing what T-shirt to buy, or if we actually need to buy one at all! Reconsider if we really need to wash our clothes as often as we do. Consider what will go down the drain with the water when we pull out the plug. We can make the effort to always consider our actions, which eventually will affect our oceans, wildlife and the world we live in. Then maybe, just maybe, we can spare them from further pollution and harm, or reduce it at the very least.

Together, we can do this!

There are lots of ways in which we can all contribute in some small way to help turn the tide of pollution in our rivers, waterways and oceans:

  • Join a local beach clean - they're a good way to meet people and get out and about, and at the same time, help to keep our local beaches clean and looking good for everyone to enjoy. Search online for your nearest one, and get together with friends and family. Make an afternoon of it!

One Global Ocean organise regular beach cleans. Click their logo to see more details.

  • Show support when shopping online; by shopping at stores that donate a percentage of their profits to charities that strive to make a change by helping to reduce and wipe out the pollution in our rivers and seas. Or buy from shops who are passionate about sourcing their stock from sustainable and renewable materials. Or seek out shops that care what sort of footprint (carbon and/or plastic) was made to produce their stock, and how big that footprint is.

  • Read up about national and global marine and environmental charities, and find out what is being done by these dedicated and forward-thinking volunteers to tackle the ever growing problem of microplastics in our oceans, and their achievements so far. Below is a link to an affiliate of Seapig, the GreenSeas Trust.

The Green Seas Trust has made great achievements at home in the UK with their BinForGreenSeas.

Click the link above to find out more.

  • Try, whenever possible, to buy clothes made only of natural materials. You'll feel the benefit in the warmer summer months, as they are cooler next to the skin and don't chafe, and in the winter months they keep you warm with less likelihood that you'll perspire or feel uncomfortable, as natural fibres 'breathe'. They also have the added benefit of being biodegradable, so do not end up in landfills. One inspirational company from Anglesey here in the UK, with a shop in Macclesfield, Cheshire, is leading the way making recycled and organic clothing using natural and sustainable fibres, including those from seaweed! They are Inland Sea and well worth paying a visit to.

  • Wear synthetic clothes less, so we need to launder them less, and so reduce on microfibres entering the waterways.

  • Change from nylon and poly-cotton dish cloths and cleaning cloths, to those made of organic materials. They may cost slightly more initially BUT they last longer and can be composted when their life is up! Plus, they are effective at cleaning without the use of harsh chemicals. Below is the award-winning, handmade and compostable Kerry's Scrubbies by ScrubbiesUK.

  • Instead of using a sponge to clean our cars, use cleaning scrubbers made from cotton and hessian, by ScrubbiesUK instead! They're brilliant for getting the dead bugs off windscreens and car bonnets, again without the use of nasty chemicals, and without scratching!

  • When it comes to buying someone a birthday gift, buy them something that we know isn't going to shed microfibres into our rivers and oceans, or harm the plant and animal life that live in them. Make it an eco-conscious gift, and tell them about it!

  • Take our litter home, or bin it when we’re out! It isn't rocket science to know that it takes more effort to carry a full plastic bottle of water or fizzy pop down onto the beach (or into the countryside) than it does to carry the empty one back to the car, and then home.

  • Learn how to 'green clean', as our grandmothers (or in my case, my mother) did. With inflation in the UK at a 40-year all time high, why not cut your cleaning bills, so you have more money to spend on the family, or yourself. There are books out there, full of tips and advice on cleaning the 'kinder way' for our planet, and benefit our purse! Green Cleaning is a gem of a book! It will actually make you want to give a lot of the tips a try, and get green cleaning!!

Green Cleaning - on sale at Seapig

  • Launder less - we'll reduce our use of electricity, the wear and tear of our clothes, detergents, water and money! Some of us wash an item of clothing after it has been worn for only an hour or two, and isn't actually dirty! Put it on a hanger and hang it out on the line in the sunshine and fresh air. Sunlight is a brilliant natural killer of bacteria.

  • Reduce | Reuse | Recycle | Refill - Try and fit these big four into our everyday lives somehow, even in a small way. A really interesting and useful book on this subject is Beyond Recycling - A Re-User's Guide. It has lots of very useful tips and new ideas for us when wondering what to do with all the excess we have hanging around our homes, and cluttering up our garages and sheds, to help us save money and protect the environment.

  • Buy second-hand. I love hunting through charity shops for my clothes now. I have picked up ('reused') some fabulous designer pieces for a tiny fraction of their original price. Then, after a while of wearing them, I 'recycle' them by giving them back to a charity shop, and choosing something else. This way, I regularly get a 'new' wardrobe, support charities that are important to me, and I feel I've used three of the big four, and done a little bit in helping to reduce pollution.

  • Recycle and refill our bottles of detergents, cleaning liquids, etc, rather than buying a new bottled product. This reduces the use of single-use plastics, cuts down on the amount of plastic having to be recycled, and helps to keep pollutants from entering our rivers and oceans. There are even apps for our smart phones that will show us where these refill stations are! A good one is the app Re Fill and you can download the app for ios or android at their website -

Consider... there's no place like home!

Photo 6

Written by Lizzie Hudson

for Seapig

Bibliography and photographs:

Photos 1-6 - no attribution required. .

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