The Problem With Microfibres

Our addiction to fast fashion and synthetics like polyester, acrylic, nylon and spandex, is contributing to global water pollution by shedding millions of invisible microfibres. What can the average person do about this?

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World Oceans Day is right around the corner, so there’s no better time to reflect on our purchases and how they may affect our planet on a larger scale. Images of turtles and plastic straws have gone viral in recent years, making our harmful addiction to plastic consumption much more evident. However, a lesser known source of marine pollution comes from our closets in the form of microfibres.

Synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, acrylic and spandex, release invisible microfibres into our rivers, lakes and oceans.  In 2019 alone, this amounted to half a million tons. These microfibres have been adding to the overall problem of microplastics pollution, which is harmful to our oceans and to our overall environment. 

It doesn’t stop there. Simply washing these synthetic clothes causes these microfibres to be consistently released into our water systems. Because these microfibres are nearly invisible, they are not removed by water treatment facilities, let alone our washing machines. As a result, they end up in our nearby rivers, lakes, and oceans. This harms aquatic life and birds as it is mistaken for food, and in turn they can make their way through the food chain – and into us!

Now you’re probably asking: what can I do about it? Given the multifaceted nature of the problem we have  a few key ways you can help reduce your microfibre footprint .

Wash your clothes less

This is the easiest solution. By washing your clothes less, you help reduce the amount of microfibres that shed from your clothes. For clothing articles that don’t sit directly on your skin, like coats and jeans, wear them 5 or more times before washing. Bonus! By washing less you also help reduce your water footprint. When you do wash, choose colder water and front loading machines. Ultimately, be sure to think twice before throwing that item into your laundry bin. Your ecological and water footprint will thank you later.

Slow down consumption

If you have to buy new clothes, then choose fibres or textiles that are natural vs synthetic, and made from sustainably sourced materials. By buying less clothes you don’t contribute to the wasteful cycle that fast fashion perpetuates. This is the most effective way to reduce your footprint as it stops the need for further production of clothes at the source.

Filter them out

Many companies are researching innovative solutions to dealing with microfibres. Here are a few that you should consider to reduce your own plastic pollution:

  • GUPPYFRIEND – An easy-to-use washing bag which you can use in your washing machines at home. It filters out microfibres which you can then properly dispose of on your own, similar to lint from your dryer 
  • Filtrol – A mesh filter you can install in your washing machine to remove non-biodegradable fibres. It has been shown  to remove approximately 89% of microfibres while washing!
  • Cora Ball – A laundry ball that catches microfibres while washing. It is mirrored after coral, in that it catches tiny things that flow in water!

The bottom line is we need to become more conscious of the impact of synthetic clothes, and take the necessary steps to reducing harmful microfibres.