How Microfibres are Polluting our Oceans
We have been told many times about the pollution crisis in our oceans, lakes, and waterways. Plastic products such as one-use water bottles and grocery bags have long contributed to this dilemma. However, another source of the problem that might surprise you would be our clothing as well.
Synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon and acrylic, are considered to be forms of plastic and is widely used in the textile and fashion industry today. According to the World Apparel Fibre Consumption Survey, synthetic fibres account for 60% of the fabrication that is used in our clothes worldwide. I think we can all agree that this number amounts to a lot of garments. Every one of those items gets laundered multiple times by its wearer, and tiny microfibres release into our water supply with every wash.
How do microfibres get released?
Think about how lint gets collected in your dryer where loose fibres and threads from your garments get captured by a mesh screen. Microfibres that come off when being laundered are no different at all, but they are so much smaller, which makes catching them an almost impossible task.
Every time we wash a synthetic garment, about 1,900 individual microfibres are released into our water streams, making their way into our oceans. It is estimated there is a minimum of 5.25 trillion plastic particles, weighing 270,000 tons, floating in the worlds' oceans.
A large number of microfibres and microplastics filter through the wastewater management system. Still, with the large amount of water that these plants manage, the remaining microfibres that make it through to the ocean will accumulate over time. These tiny plastic particles are finding their ways into aquatic life, birds, soil, and even our bodies. A recent study showed that 73% of fish caught in the Northwest Atlantic ocean had microplastics in their stomachs.
How can we be part of the solution?
Still, there does not seem to be a clear cut solution to the microfibres problem until steps are made towards including fibre filtration in newly designed washing machines. In the meantime, consumers can make a conscious effort to purchase clothing using sustainable fabrics and launder their clothing infrequently as possible.