Plastic, Chemicals, And Emissions: How To Do Your Laundry Without Dirtying The Planet
by Rachel Bray
Traditional Laundry Detergents Will Clean Your Clothes – But At What Cost?
Traditional laundry detergents might clean your clothes, but their manufacture and use have a significant impact on the environment. And not in a good way.
From the packaging to the ingredients, traditional laundry detergents are responsible for huge amounts of plastic, emissions, and chemicals ending up in our soil, water, and food chain. The average household in the UK does an average of 260 five kg loads per year. In the US it’s 300 loads per year. It’s not a small problem.
Why are traditional laundry detergents bad for your clothes and the environment?
There are still plastic microbeads in some laundry detergents
Plastic microbeads have been found in many brands of laundry detergent, even organic ones. Regulations brought in in 2015 only covered the cosmetics industry: industrial use was exempt. The EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published a proposal this year for microplastics intentionally added to products to be restricted but "long transition periods are envisaged, with individual sectors pushing hard for exemptions, resulting in a plan with major loopholes”. We need to take responsibility now for what we use.
Plastic packaging doesn’t always get recycled
While the industry might claim to be using less virgin plastic, the fact remains that almost 80% of the plastic ever produced remains in the environment, a lot of it in landfill or the oceans. Some gets recycled into fabric – which then sheds plastic microfibres when washed! And also ends up in our water.
As plastic degrades each time it’s recycled, low-quality mixed plastic waste was often exported by richer countries to those with less rigorous restrictions, where it was dumped. New regulations came in in 2019 but as most plastic is non-biodegradable, the more we avoid using it the better.
Biodegradable plastic membranes on laundry pods don’t always biodegrade
Liquid laundry pods are wrapped in a PVA membrane that should dissolve in your washing machine. However, modern washing machines are designed to clean with less water and lower temperatures than the plastic sometimes needs to dissolve fully. It can stick to your clothes or build up in your washing machine, leading to a nasty, greasy, brown residue.
This gunky residue creates the ideal conditions for bacteria and odours. The gunk can end up on your laundry and can even damage your washing machine.
And while PVA is technically biodegradable, the conditions required for it to do so are often not available. A 2021 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study concluded that “as much as 75% of PVA from detergent pods goes untreated in the United States".
Harmful and unnecessary chemicals are used
Synthetic dyes, fragrances, optical brighteners, and other harmful and toxic chemicals can be found in many traditional laundry detergents. Dyes are added to appeal to the consumer and fragrances to give the impression of cleanliness and to mask other odours. They can all end up on our clothes or in the environment.
Heavy, bulky products contribute to transport emissions
A lot of energy is needed to get all these heavy, bulky boxes and plastic bottles and tubs to the consumer. Imagine the emissions created moving lorryloads of traditional laundry detergent around.
There’s a cleaner solution - Melt laundry detergent strips
- Melt laundry detergent strips are entirely plastic-free. There’s no plastic in our environmentally friendly formulation or packaging.
- Unlike some laundry strips that are marketed as environmentally friendly, they are not made from PVA.
- Unlike pods, liquids and powders our strips dissolve fully in the wash in cold water and with low water levels, leaving no residue or gunk in your machine or on your clothes.
- Our packaging is made from fully biodegradable, recycled cardboard. Melt is a zero-waste product.
- We don’t add any harmful chemicals, dyes, or synthetic fragrances.
- Melt boxes are small, light and fit through your letter box, minimising transport emissions.
- Available on a subscription basis on a schedule you control, you’ll never have too much or too little.