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    Europe and North America are flooding oceans with plastic by washing their clothes

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    Plastic menace
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    Plastic menace

    According to a report by AFP, households in Europe and North America are flooding the oceans with plastic pollution simply by washing their clothes, scientists said Tuesday after research found the majority of microplastics in Arctic seawater were polyester fibres. Plastic particles have infiltrated even the most remote and seemingly-pristine regions of the planet.

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    Surprising contamination
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    Surprising contamination

    These tiny fragments have been discovered inside fish in the deepest recesses of the ocean -- the Mariana Trench -- peppering Arctic sea ice and blanketing the snows on the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. But questions remain over exactly where this plastic contamination is coming from.

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    Direct correlation
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    Direct correlation

    In the new study by the Ocean Wise conservation group and Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, researchers sampled seawater from across the Arctic and found synthetic fibres made up around 92 percent of microplastic pollution. "The striking conclusion here is that we now have strong evidence that homes in Europe and North America are directly polluting the Arctic with fibres from laundry (via wastewater discharge)," said lead author Peter Ross, of Ocean Wise and the University of British Columbia.

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    Role of ocean currents
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    Role of ocean currents

    He said the mechanisms for this remain unclear, but added that ocean currents appear to play a major role in transporting the fibres northwards, while atmospheric systems may also contribute. "Plastics are all around us, and while it would be grossly unfair to specifically point our finger at textiles as the only source of microplastics to the world's oceans, we nonetheless see a strong footprint of polyester fibres that are likely to be largely derived from clothing," he told AFP.

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    Wastewater treatment
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    Wastewater treatment

    The organisation has also warned that wastewater treatment plants are often not catching the plastic fibres, calculating that households in the United States and Canada could collectively release some 878 tonnes of microfibres annually. "The textile sector can do much to design more sustainable clothing, including by designing clothes that shed less," said Ross, while governments could make sure wastewater treatment plants have installed technologies to remove microplastics and incentivise innovation.

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