Have you heard of microfibers? Even if you haven’t you’ve probably been drinking them and eating them. Yum!
Microfibers is basically what the name implies, they are small trace fibers. In this instance microfibers are fibers shed from fishing nets, plastic bags and mostly from synthetic textiles (like polyester, nylon or acrylic) in the wash, drain from your washing machine into the ocean. Microfibers fall into the category of trace amount of plastic from plastic waste that have been found in water. This all doesn’t sound so bad, but in other words there is now more micro plastic in the ocean than plankton. That’s micro plastics found in the fish we eat and in the water we drink.
Microfibers made up 85% of human-made debris on shorelines around the world, fibers are the second most common debris in Lake Michigan. These fibers are dangerous because they have the potential to poison are food and water supply. They have the potential to bioaccumulate and absorb toxins higher into the food chain, like crabs and fish.
Research has shown that a lot microfibers come from fleece and active wear, and even from fabrics made form recycled plastic. The thinner threads from fleece and these fabrics break off easier in the wash and into the water. Potentially why North American waters show a higher percentage of fibers then say Indonesia is because Americans wear more fleeces.
But as microfibers are becoming more well known there are companies looking at ways to reduce fiber waste and Patagonia is on the case!
Patagonia has researched into this issue since their fleeces can contribute to the problem., determining that higher quality garments shed less. Focus needs to be put on appliances like washing machines and treatment plants to filter microfibers and reduce plastic waste. Look at buying the Guppy Friend wash bag, it has captured 99% of fibers released in the wash! Sold at cost in Patagonia stores.
Unlike some pollutant scandals or manufacturing disasters, we are all ingesting these fibers. It isn't limited to one area of the globe, and should be a united effort to limit plastics in the water.
Besides buying better and buying a lint filter, there are other ways that the consumer can help reduce adding microfibers to the environment. Consider switching to liquid laundry soap, scrubs loosen more microfibers. Use colder washing settings and dry spin at lower revolutions, higher temperatures and faster revolutions increase friction and damage clothes. Focus on buying clothes made from natural fibers, like cotton and linen. Lastly, education, reading and sharing articles raise awareness of clothing care and plastic pollution, the more you know.