These microfibers in the ocean are mistakenly consumed by marine life, which we then consume as part of the food chain…so yes we are in fact eating our own clothes. The worst part is, microfibers in water expand and attract different forms of harmful bacteria and pollutants. This all makes one toxic meal for us to consume. The health effects of plastic contamination are disgusting – just look at the recent story of the whale in Norway that washed up sick with 30 plastic bags in it’s stomach. Further studies are here.
The outdoor apparel brand Patagonia has been a key change maker in the apparel industry, investing large funding grants into studies to find out more about microfibers. A project called ‘MICROFIBER POLLUTION & THE APPAREL INDUSTRY‘ by the University of California funded by Patagonia, researched the variables that could effect the release of microfibers and how that could be used to change the textile industry and social behaviour. This study revealed that the amount of microfibers released from clothing change significantly between a number of factors; apparel age, fabric quality, washing machine type, fabric type and fabric construction. Basically – the older and poorer quality clothing washed in a top loader machine will produce vastly more microfibers. Sad news for second hand and vintage shoppers (trust me, I’m devastated).
The fashion industry is a big problem for the environment and brands are starting to be put under the spotlight by consumers so they need to get their shit together. In today’s society, everyone is obsessed with fast fashion – Greenpeace recently wrote a report that 60% of clothes are made with the synthetic material polyester. This is why the solution is not to simply phase out synthetic materials as it won’t happen, unless there is an incredible alternative.
Brands and industries (appliances / apparel) need to actually care for the impact they make on the world and make better quality clothing. They should always be investing in science and technology, looking for new ways to change the fashion industry for good with the evidence to back it up. The clothing brand G-Star Raw recently partnered with Plastic Soup Foundation to encourage other apparel brands and retailers, textile producers, and washing-machine manufacturers to support the Ocean Clean Wash. This is a great message for other brands to follow.
Consumers can also do their part aside from buying / using the inventions above. Consumers should buy good quality clothing that will produce less microfibers but also clothes that will last and be produced with less chemicals. A big solution is to wash less, hang your clothes out in the air or hand wash stains. Also demand more from your clothing brands, invest in good companies that are invested in the future – consumers have the power to make change!
Image source: Salt Gypsy