How microfibres from synthetic clothing are damaging the planet
One of the biggest threats to the environment can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Microfibres are so small you need a microscope to see them.
But how can something so small be so dangerous?
What are microfibres and where are they coming from?
We explain everything you need to know in this short article.
What are microfibres?
Many people might be shocked to learn that the majority of clothes made today are actually made of plastic.
Around 60% of our clothes are made from synthetic material, mostly polyester, acrylic, and nylon.
Manufacturers use these materials because they are cheaper to produce clothes, more durable, versatile, and readily available.
The problem is, every time you wash these clothes, little microscopic bits come off and get rinsed away down the drain.
These microfibres are another type of microplastics, usually less than a millimetre in length, with their diameters measured in micrometres (one-thousandth of a millimetre), less than a human hair.
How do these microfibres damage the planet?
As these microfibres are washed away, they end up in our water filtration plants, but because they are so small, they pass right through and end up in our rivers and oceans.
This is where the real damage happens.
Polluting the water on a microscopic level means that even the tiniest of fish and sea creatures end up consuming the plastics, and once they have entered the food chain, everything else is affected.
Those small fish are eaten by bigger fish and then eaten by us.
And if you think you’re okay because you don’t eat fish, then you’re mistaken.
Microfibres have not only been found in fish and plankton, but in chicken, sea salt, beer, honey, and in bottled water.
Other synthetic textiles also have the same problem, such as our carpets and curtains, meaning we’re also breathing in these microfibres just by sitting in our homes.
These microplastics are great at absorbing pollutants, such as motor oil, pesticides, and industrial chemicals.
While this may sound like a great way to clean up the ocean, unfortunately, these turn the fibres into little toxic timebombs, ready to explode in a fish’s digestion tract.
And with all these toxins stored in the cells of a fish, they’re easily passed onto whatever eats it.
How many microfibres are in the ocean?
The number is bigger than you think.
According to the BBC, some polyester garments release almost 2,000 microfibres in a single wash.
Now multiply that by the number of garments in a washing machine, then by how many washes per week by an average family, then multiply that by how many families there are in the world…
It’s already estimated there are 200 million microfibres for every person on the planet. That’s an incomprehensible 1.4 million trillion fibres in our oceans.
To try and put that in some sort of perspective, there’s estimated to be about 200 billion stars in the Galaxy.
What this all adds up to is a global catastrophe waiting to happen.
One study gathered samples from shorelines at 18 sites worldwide, representing six continents, from the poles to the equator.
The results found that microfibres are responsible for 85% of shoreline pollution across the globe.
What you can do to help reduce microfibres
Synthetic microplastic pollution is a complex problem and one which has no easy solution.
We are, however, all responsible for our own actions, and there are a few things you can do to help limit your amount of microfibre pollution.
There is a physical reason why clothes shed these fibres – they keep rubbing together, but you can limit that reaction by washing clothes at a lower temperature, reducing spin speeds, and airing rather than tumble drying.
Some companies are developing gadgets to help with the problem, such as the Guppy Bag, which catches 99% of the fibres during the wash.
Of course, the biggest change you can make as a consumer is to stop buying synthetic clothes.
This is just another off-shoot of the Fast Fashion phenomenon which we’ve talked about before, and one which is destroying the planet.
If possible, you should always buy clothes made from natural materials, such as cotton, linen, or wool.
These natural fibres will break down eventually, but the synthetic ones will stay around forever.
Aiming for sustainability
Microfibres are just one of the many dangers facing our environment, and the textile and fashion industries are, unfortunately, a huge part of that.
As a company, we encourage our clients to go green, both for the sake of the planet and the future of their business.
With decades of experience in dozens of countries around the world, we have the expertise to guide your company into a greener, more sustainable future, one which does the least amount of damage to the planet as possible.
The world is changing, with consumers becoming more eco-conscious, ready to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to doing what’s best for the planet.
If your business needs help with making environmental and sustainable changes, then talk to us and let’s have a chat about how we can help you prepare for the future.
Contact us today if you would like to know more. One of our friendly and experienced staff members will be happy to discuss your unique business