Synthetic materials such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon represent about 60% of the clothing material worldwide. Out of this 60%, the most used one is polyester. These man-made materials are highly popular and usually chosen by the fashion industry because of their availability, durability, resistance, and affordability.
When manufactured, washed, and worn, clothes made out of synthetic materials lose tiny plastic fibers that end up in the environment. Plastic that ends up in the environment does not biodegrade, it fragmentizes into smaller pieces. These tiny pieces, called microfibers, are smaller than 5 mm and are known as primary microplastics, which are usually not visible to the naked eye. Primary microplastics are directly released into the environment as such, contrary to secondary microplastics which mostly come from the degradation of large plastic.
Microfiber pollution through washing & wearing
Plastic particles washed off from products such as synthetic clothes contribute up to 35% of the primary plastic that is polluting our oceans. Every time we do our laundry an average of 9 million microfibers are released into wastewater treatment plants that cannot filter them. Because of that, these fibers end up in the ocean. Also, just by wearing synthetic clothes, plastic fibers are constantly being released in the air.
WE EAT, DRINK & BREATHE MICROFIBERS
Recent research proves that we are eating and drinking plastic and that plastic fibers are literally raining down from the sky. We breathe in plastic microfibers from our clothing, carpets, curtains & other textiles.
The consequences of ubiquitous microfiber pollution might be disastrous to animals and humans.
Because of our dependence on fast fashion, synthetic materials, and washing machines, microplastic contamination of all habitats is likely to increase.
Microfibers have been found in fish, plankton, chicken, sea salt, beer, honey, and tap as well as bottled water. We also breathe in these plastic particles due to fiber loss from our clothes, carpets, curtains, and other textiles.
This begs the question: are our lungs able to eliminate the plastic particles we inhale, as they do for fine dust? Or do plastic particles accumulate in lung tissue and cause damage? Or, is it even possible that the plastics we inhale spread to the rest of our body?
For the first time, there is scientific proof that microfibres are affecting our lungs.
The problem of synthetic microfiber pollution is complex and of a considerable scale. Switching from synthetic materials to natural materials comes with other substantial environmental costs. For that reason, there is no easy fix to this extensive problem. The textile industry, as well as consumers, have the power to stop the consequences of pollution from synthetic clothes. Find out what you can do to help us solve this problem, either as a consumer or as a business.
We have developed a standard for microfiber release with which fashion and textile brands can get their clothes tested with our new methodology and benchmark. The tested items will get assigned a label according to their release.
This standard has been developed with the Wear Off Microfibers Alliance (WOMA).