Every load of laundry washed can release as many as 700,000 plastic microfibers into our water systems!
What are Microfibers?
Microfibers are essentially tiny fibres that come from natural and synthetic fabrics, typically defined as smaller than the diameter of a strand of silk. Natural microfibers pose very little danger to the environment as they breakdown, where as synthetic microfibers are polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans.
Microfibres Pros & Cons
Synthetic fabrics have a few environmental benefits, as their production requires less water than cotton and no toxic pesticides to grow.
However, the biggest downside is that they shed hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces of plastic microfibers when in the washing machine. Theses plastic microfibers go through the water system and wind up on the beaches and in the ocean where they can be swallowed by sea life. It also creates three times more CO2 emissions to produce polyester clothing compared to cotton.
The Effects of Microfibers
A report created by IUCN has found that between 15% - 30% of marine plastic pollution could be from microfibers and other tiny plastics. The reports go on to say that of all microplastic pollution around 35% comes from washing synthetic fabrics. These tiny pieces of plastic are eaten by a wide range of sea life, from fish to dolphins and whales. Microfibers make their way up the food chain to our plates.
What can be done to stop them?
"It’s unrealistic to think that we can get rid of synthetic fibers altogether. Their use is too widespread and the sheer volume of clothing that we produce simply can’t be manufactured using only cotton and other natural fibers."
One of the top ways you can do your part is to buy your clothes second hand and upcycle clothes that you have but don't wear anymore. Try fixing your clothes if they break and donate rather than throw away!
Another way we can at least reduce the amount of microfibers being pumped into the water systems is getting filters fit into every washing machine. The Marine Conservation Society has set up a petition to #StopOceanThreads which is demanding that manufacturers commit to including microfiber filters in their future machines. This is how those filters will work:
"Fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are created using plastic fibres, with every wash and wear these shed from our clothes and end up in the environment. The filters will work in much the same way as lint is collected from tumble dryers, they’ll capture microfibres shedding from every load of laundry, ready to be emptied into the bin, drastically reducing the microfibres heading straight for the ocean."
It is such a simple idea but incredible effective in preventing microfibers from heading directly to the ocean. Click the image or link below to head over and sign the petition today!