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Climate Change in the Classroom | Critter: Original Blue Bloods | The World's Coal Stack | Next Big Thing: Eating Bugs? |
On the One Hand: Fleece | Worst. Congress. Ever. | Up to Speed

Peter and Maria Hoey


Ah, fleece--it's insulating, it's quick drying, and it can be made of recycled materials, plus it gives even prickly environmentalists a soft, pettable exterior. Vegans like it because it doesn't come from animals, backpackers like it because it can weigh less than wool, and tree huggers like it because it gives old pop bottles something to do. Patagonia, which began making polyester fleece garments from recycled plastic soda bottles in 1993, estimates that in its first 13 years of turning garbage into garments, it diverted 86 million soda bottles from landfills.


Every time you wash that cuddly fleece jacket, tiny plastic particles trickle down the drain and into the ocean. A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that a single polyester garment can shed more than 1,900 fibers on its trip through the washing machine. Those fibers sail through sewage treatment plants and settle along coastlines. When researchers sifted through sand collected from 18 beaches on six continents, they found acrylic and polyester fibers in every sample. The fibers get eaten by mollusks and then move up the food chain with potentially toxic results. —-Dashka Slater

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