Merino and natural fibres could help clothing companies battle scourge of microplastics

Microplastics are one of the biggest threats to oceans and synthetic textiles are a huge contributor to the problem, but now a New Zealand company is hoping to lead change by promoting the use of natural fibres like merino wool.

The issue of microbeads in beauty products is well known, but tiny plastic fibres from clothing are an even bigger issue for oceans and marine life.

For example, each time people wash their synthetic clothing these microplastic fibres break off and, because they’re so tiny, they’re then carried into rivers and eventually oceans.

“How much synthetics people wear, how often they wash their clothing, what kind of washing machines they have,” said Professor Linn Hoffmann, from the Botany department at Otago University.

A recent report indicates synthetic clothing accounts for 35 per cent of microplastic pollution in oceans, compared with just two per cent from microbeads.

So the New Zealand Merino Company's investing in research and development to see how natural fibres like merino can help, including travelling to Europe for talks with textile and clothing manufacturers.

“They’re realising the responsibility that companies must play in terms of what's happening in the world,” said chief executive John Brackenridge.

What makes merino so unique is its super fine natural fibres, and it's biodegradable, taking only months to break down, compared to synthetics which can take thousands of years.

"I think merino has just sort of been discovered by the world and by manufacturers, said Kate Cocks, owner of merino farm, Mount Nicholas Station. “Where people think 'right what else can I use this for'."

Price is a challenge, as merino fabric is much more expensive than synthetic fibre, but industry leaders say more and more consumers are making ethical choices.

"There's a lot of people that want to understand a lot more about what they're putting in their mouths, what they're putting in their bodies,” said Cocks. “Where it comes from, and what's the impact to the environment with the choices that they're making."

With New Zealand’s abundant wool resource, it could be the perfect place to lead the natural fibres movement.

Microplastics are one of the biggest threats to oceans, and synthetic textiles are a huge contributor to the problem. Source: 1 NEWS

Government report says climate change will hurt our well-being - 'The biggest risk to human health'

The government has produced what it says is the country's most significant report detailing the impacts of climate change on the health of Kiwis.

It also announced it wants to formulate an action plan to tackle this issue.

"Climate change is the biggest risk to human health and wellbeing in the 21st century and that's why it's so important for this government to take action," said Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter.

The new Ministry of Health commissioned report is the country's most significant look at the issue and spells out the risks for Kiwis over the next century.

The report looks at issues like:

- Respiratory problems from air pollution

- The risk of cancer caused by the sun's rays

- Increased flooding spurring infectious diseases, like dengue

- How extreme weather can change the nutritional content of food

"Next steps from this report is to gather more data and have an action plan for how we address the specific problems," said Ms Genter.

Climate change is a worry for the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation.

Chief executive Letitia O'Dwyer says: "There are one in six Kiwis, that's 700,000, with respiratory disease and we know that climate change, increase in plant production, increase in pollen production is going to affect people with asthma".

Public health physician Dr Rhys Jones says the sector is not prepared, questioning "is the health system itself ready? Are our hospitals, our health facilities actually ready for things like storms, the floods, the impacts that climate change is going to bring."

It's unclear what the action plan will look like just yet, but the government hopes it will be ready by the next election.

The government says it's too early to say if law changes will be needed.

The government wants an action plan in place to tackle climate change after a new report details its impact on health. Source: 1 NEWS


Much loved Kiwi author Joy Cowley made a Member of the Order of New Zealand

One of New Zealand's most beloved authors received the country's highest honour today, as Joy Cowley was officially made a member of the Order of New Zealand.

Her stories have delighted Kiwi kids since the 1960s, but it was Cowley's early learning books that made her a world famous author.

They've helped millions of children learn to read and can be found in more than 70 per cent of American schools.

Cowley's showing no signs of slowing down at 81, as she is writing an opera and scheduled to have a new children's book out later this year.

Her stories have delighted Kiwi kids since the 1960s, but it was her early learning books that made her world famous. Source: 1 NEWS