What Are Microfibres And Why Should You Care?

by: Chloe Borich | 2 years ago | News

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Recently, microfibres have become an important part of the conversation regarding how the fashion industry affects the environment, particularly the oceans. But what are microfibres exactly?

Microfibres are found in synthetic fabrics, including nylon, polyester, rayon, acrylic, or spandex, which, cumulatively, are used to produce 60% of clothing worldwide. Located in shirts, fleeces, underwear, and activewear, synthetic fabrics are commonplace in washing piles around the globe. Polyester is extremely popular due to being affordable, accessible, and versatile. This means there are a lot of microfibres floating around out there and into our oceans.

Microfibres themselves are tiny plastic strands which shed off of synthetic garments when they’re washed - during a single wash, one garment can shed thousands of microfibres. Unfortunately, this is not a one time thing - the more a synthetic garment is washed, the more microfibres it can release. Once released, 40% of them travel into waterways and ultimately, the ocean, as they’re unable to be filtered by water treatment systems. It’s estimated that 1.4 million trillion microfibers are currently in our oceans. The particles act like sponges and soak up oil, pesticides and industrial chemicals. Their irregular shape poses a threat to smaller organisms that help our oceans thrive, which are consumed by larger marine life, and in entering the food chain, work their way up to us.

Microfibres cause irreversible damage to our oceans. In a recent study commissioned by Patagonia, microfibres have been found to be prevalent from the bottom of the Indian Ocean to the farmland of the United States. The International Union for Conservation of Nature calculates that 30% of ocean plastic pollution could come from microplastic pollution, with 35% of that existing due to washing synthetic textiles.

There is hope in the fight against microfibres, though. Guppy Friend is a micro-washing bag which will be available from Patagonia stores soon, and The Cora Ball, a piece of technology which catches the microfibres which are shed during the washing process, is currently in production.

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