These sheets are used in place of traditional liquid or powder detergent and can be simply tossed into the washing machine. However, what many people don't know is that these sheets are actually a major contributor to plastic pollution in our oceans.
Laundry sheets contain a type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is commonly used in water bottles and other plastic products. When these sheets are used in the washing machine, they release small plastic fibers into the water. These fibers can easily pass through wastewater treatment plants and end up in our rivers and oceans.
Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is another type of plastic that is sometimes used in laundry sheets. PVA is a water-soluble polymer that can be used to create thin, clear films. In laundry sheets, PVA is used as a binder to hold the active ingredients together.
While PVA is not as commonly used in laundry sheets as PET, it is still a type of plastic and can contribute to plastic pollution. When PVA is released into the environment, it can take a long time to break down and can harm marine life and other animals that ingest it.
Furthermore, the manufacturing process of PVA can be energy-intensive and produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.
These plastic fibers are harmful to marine life in a number of ways. They can be ingested by fish and other marine animals, causing them to become sick or die. In addition, these fibers can accumulate in the food chain, leading to potential harm to humans who consume seafood.
The problem of plastic pollution in our oceans is a serious one. According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight by 2050 if current trends continue. While laundry sheets are just one contributor to this problem, they are a significant one.
One option is to switch to liquid or powder detergent that don't contain plastic fibers or other harmful ingredients. I personally use and love Seventh Generation Easy Dose. It's concentrated so you use a lot less of it plus the bottle is PCR (post-consumer plastic). Some other better options are Nellie's Laundry Soda, Attitude Home Essentials & Dirty Labs Laundry Detergent
Another option is to use a laundry bag designed to catch microfibers, which can be emptied and disposed of properly. I use a Guppyfriend Microwaste Washing Bag for microfiber cloths & smaller items, and always have my Cora Ball in the was to catch additional micro-plastics.
In addition to individual actions, it's important for manufacturers to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their products. They can do this by creating more sustainable products and by investing in research and development to find alternatives to plastic-based laundry sheets. I always encourage my readers to email or call companies and ask them what they are doing to find better alternatives.
In conclusion, laundry sheets may seem like a more eco-friendly way to do laundry, but they come with a significant environmental cost.