Microfiber pollution is a serious form of pollution that is hiding in plain sight. When we wash synthetic fabrics (polyester, nylon, acrylic,etc.), tiny fibers are released called microfibers, which are made of plastic (older clothes release even more microfibers). Some companies are actually making synthetic fabrics out of recycled bottles, and although this process is cleaning up our oceans, the problem still exists when laundering. About half of the microfibers released while laundering make their way into the ocean, the bellies of fish, and eventually in our bodies when we eat fish.
“Alarmingly, as The Guardian notes, a 2011 paper in the journal Environmental Science & Technology ‘found that microfibers made up 85% of human-made debris on shorelines around the world.” Not only that, but Adventure Journal cites that microfibers “are often coated with toxic chemicals … [and] able to absorb and concentrate pollutants present in the water supply,'” (InsideHook.com)
To reiterate: Plastic microfibers + ocean toxins / chemicals are killing our fish and entering our bodies upon consumption.
So what can we as consumers do? We can buy natural fabrics such as hemp, wool, organic cotton, etc., but that’s often unrealistic due to the increasing popularity of synthetic fabrics. Patagonia will be selling a fabric mesh bag we can wash our synthetic fabrics in called Guppy Friend. This Berlin-based product will be sold at cost ($20-$30) by Patagonia in order to fight microfiber pollution. This wonderful company is also investing in R&D to figure out how to craft synthetic fabrics that do not shed microfibers.
To learn more about microfibers, check out these two websites: