Tonnes of marine pollution occurs due to plastic waste. It’s not just fast fashion that contributes to it. Even our furniture, decor contributes to ocean pollution. On World Ocean Day 2021, we find out.

We are forever dreaming of spending most of the times amidst pristine waters and scenic oceans – more or less a perfect holiday turned into everyday life. But every time we decide to feed our souls with this pleasure of spending calm time with nature, we forget that it’s us who is leading to its depletion too. 

In recent times, ocean depletion has increased manifold. The visible litter we see on beaches are only as small as 1% of the problem facing our oceans. Although the fast-fashion world has already been called out for this problem, in a lesser-known world even our furniture is to be blamed for this. There are tonnes of marine plastic swirling in the great oceans. It is, therefore, increasingly important to consider the consumption of furniture too in our strategies for solving this major ecological problem. But, how is our furniture to be blamed for this? On the occasion of World Ocean Day 2021, we find out.

World Ocean Day: Not Just Clothes, Even Furniture And Home Decor Can Lead To Ocean Plastic Pollution
(World Ocean Day 2021)

The Threat Of Microplastics World Ocean Day 2021:

Garbage in the ocean namely plastic jeopardises the natural ambience of marine life. Plastic waste often ends up in our oceans and landfill sites, and scenes of marine life entangled in items. “From the tops of mountains to the bottom of the ocean what we put into our waters upstream affects the animals and plants downstream. The ocean is directly connected to the river and the river’s existence is based on forest reserves and green plantations around it. 70% of ocean pollution comes from the upstream river.” tells Divita Ajnesh, founder and creative head of Reclaimed Wood, a handcrafted and sustainable furniture brand. 

Creative powerhouses have a responsibility and an opportunity to set the agenda for a sustainable future, just as much as consumers do. Micro-plastic particles are a major component of marine pollution. The majority of microplastics found indoors, however, comes from plastic fibres released from synthetic clothing and textiles used in home furnishings.

World Ocean Day: Not Just Clothes, Even Furniture And Home Decor Can Lead To Ocean Plastic Pollution; Reclaimed Wood
Image Credit: Reclaimed Wood (World Ocean Day 2021)

“Microplastics are flooding the oceans and becoming a part of the oceanic food chain. Textile production is, in a very large way, to blame. When we think of textiles and plastic, we often think of the fast fashion industry. However, we should not neglect the impact of the home decor industry on ocean pollution. Soft furnishings, which is specifically about home decor through the use of fabrics” tells Shrita Pathak Of Studio Covers, an ethical and mindful home decor space.

But, plastic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And some industries such as furniture manufacturing do rely extensively on plastic. This fast furniture mindset continues to this day, eroding environmental health and draining pockets of money. However, a recent shift to eco-friendly furniture designs has the potential to change the game, friendly to the environment, your health, and your wallet.

Many brands are trying to reduce this waste plastic by turning reclaimed ocean waste into contemporary furniture.  

“As a company that is constantly trying to find ways to be more sustainable, there are a few things we try to be mindful of. For one, we try to go for natural fabrics such as linens and cotton over synthetic fabrics. This is so that we can reduce the number of microplastics that end up in the ocean. Further, we incorporate handwoven fabrics over mill made fabrics.” tells Shrita.

Chemical Dyes Into Oceans World Ocean Day 2021:

Apart from plastics from furniture, chemical dyes pose a threat to marine life too. Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibres — all of which are forms of plastic makes up material for your cushions, sofa covers, carpets amongst others. These tiny elements form the core of any home furnishing, create the basics of furnishing and play a major role in home decor.

“Upholstery manufacturing is not a direct cause of ocean pollution. However, the chemicals used to achieve the desired look of the fabric, such as dyes if not disposed of properly can land up in water bodies and cause pollution,” states Sanjana Lunia, founder and creative head of Eris Home, a contemporary soft home-furnishing brand.

While most of them are washable, these synthetic fibres leach into the environment just by being washed. Synthetic fibres come off in the wash but they’re so small and there’s no filter inside the machines to catch them. Instead, eventually, they end up in the ocean, leading to microplastic pollution. 

World Ocean Day: Not Just Clothes, Even Furniture And Home Decor Can Lead To Ocean Plastic Pollution; Eris Home
Image Credit: Eris Home (World Ocean Day 2021)

“70% of the ocean pollution comes from the upstream river. This is highly impacted that risks our oceans and the entire ecosystem,” tells Divita. Think about how many people are washing these synthetic materials on a daily basis, how many decor variants all of us own in the world and how all of them end up in the oceans! Plastic textile fibres are the dominant source of plastic pollution.

To prevent polluting the oceans and causing harm to aquatic life it’s important that all chemicals used during various processes of manufacturing fabric are either reused or disposed of appropriately. “At Eris Home, we try to minimise the use of chemicals that harm the environment. We attempt to reduce our carbon footprint by minimising wastage, using environmentally friendly fabrics such as Ahimsa Silk, reusing yarns and fabric scraps in inspired ways to create beautiful soft furnishings.” enlightens Sanjana.

So, What More Can We Do? World Ocean Day 2021:

Finding greener alternatives of production is how simply we can move ahead. We pollute the seas with plastic by many routes. Now, this material can end up back in your home.

“Reclaimed Wood is a startup. We have our own everyday initiative through our concept and the work that we do. We are making furniture by reclaimed old, salvaged wood which normally ends up in landfills or burned out in furnaces, in turn, creating and leaving behind a large carbon footprint risking our oceans and ecosystem.” shares Divita.

The mindless consumption of goods often leads to more wastage. Eventually, we either grow out of them or they tend to only last for some years. But, then what? Should we again make another decor or furniture purchase?

World Ocean Day: Not Just Clothes, Even Furniture And Home Decor Can Lead To Ocean Plastic Pollution; Studio Covers
Image Credit: Studio Covers (World Ocean Day 2021)

“It is of utmost importance that our products last for years to come. Before we started Studio Covers, we used to take on only project-based work. Our clients have been using our products (curtains, blinds, bed coordinated, cushions) for close to two decades and they’re still in perfect condition. The one way to ensure lesser waste ends up in the ocean is to produce less waste. And that means producing mindfully (for companies) and consuming mindfully (for customers). If customers buy products meant to last, it is inevitable that lesser waste will end up in the oceans. Reducing is better than recycling any day.” shares Shrita.

Not just the products, the packaging plays a huge role in the amount of waste generated. However, many brands call themselves to be eco-friendly only to be later found with products coming wrapped in plastics. One of the best ways to cut down on waste is to use multi-tasking products. By using a single product that addresses more than one usage, you’re saving on waste, packaging and a baby step towards a minimal lifestyle.

“Our boxes are made of cardboard, instead of being plastic bags (even though the latter would save us a lot of money when shipping out the products). We use our own fabric waste to create bags in which our cushion covers are packed. We secure these bags with ties that we try to colour coordinate with the cushion covers. These can be used by customers to store their sarees and winter clothes in,” she adds.

World Ocean Day: Not Just Clothes, Even Furniture And Home Decor Can Lead To Ocean Plastic Pollution
(World Ocean Day 2021)

We live in an increasingly complex world so it may not be possible to completely eradicate our waste generation. The most we can do is try to make sure we’re vetting our sources properly, are aware of the entire process of our material production, and are not creating unnecessary waste.

Lead Image Credit: Eris Home

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