Testing times for school uniforms

P7 pupils from Pond Park Primary School’s Eco Council in Lisburn have carried out an investigation into marine micro plastic, discovering that when we wash our school uniforms we are sending tiny plastic fibres into our waterways which can then enter our food chain.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 5:06 pm

The 10 and 11 year old pupils have created a video about their discoveries, based on an experiment that they carried out, last year, in P6 as part of their Super Scientists topic.

All 90 P6 pupils carried out the experiment, washing a piece of school jumper in water and then filtering the water, leaving behind microscopic red plastic fibres which can be seen with a microscope.

The school jumpers are promoted as being made from an ‘Eco’ fabric, since they are made from recycled plastic bottles.

Many brands such as Adidas are promoting these innovative ‘Eco’ fabrics as being ‘green’ as they are more sustainable and low carbon.

The children decided that whilst it is a positive move to help recycle plastic into clothing they wanted to show people just how damaging man made fibres can be to our environment and our wildlife.

The pupils’ experiment shows that when man made fibres including polyester, nylon and acrylic which all have plastic content in them are washed, micro plastics are being released into our waterways.

The experiment was introduced in school last year as part of their Super Scientists topic, but crosses over into our Eco work, making all 90 children plus their teachers aware of this issue of micro plastic fibres entering our waterways.

In the video the pupils tell us how plastic does not decompose, that 90% of seabirds are expected to have already swallowed some plastic and that experts predict that by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic the fish.

They highlight the problem of micro plastics is that they are so tiny that fish and much smaller organisms can also easily swallow them, and then they enter our food chain eventually being eaten by us.

The children explain that there are changes that we can all make to help reduce the microfibre pollution, to include:

choosing to buy and wear natural fibres such as wool, silk, cotton and linen rather than manmade fabrics, keeping clothes for longer instead of buying cheap fashion and updating every season, washing our clothes less often, choosing a wash cycle that uses less water, line drying instead of tumble drying plus we could develop new technology with washing machines that filter the fibres out before emptying the water and our waste water systems could be upgraded to include a more efficient filter system.

Principal Geoffrey Cherry said: “COVID has made it very difficult to carry out many of our school’s normal Eco activities, as children have to remain in their bubbles and within their own classrooms.

“I am so proud and delighted that our P7s have used their own initiative and independently produced, filmed and edited this video.

“Their video brings to the fore an issue that I am sure many of us are not aware of.”