Your love of adventure gear could be polluting our oceans, reducing your lung capacity, and releasing polyfluorinated chemicals into the atmosphere.
Would you ever have imagined that keeping your clothes clean could lead to microscopic bits of plastic taking up residence in your major organs and permeating the deepest parts of our seas?
Microplastics are turning up everywhere and microfibers have been discovered in some of the most remote places on earth, as well as in the bodies of sea turtles, the placentas of pregnant women, and the stools of South American fur seals.
Why High Fibre Clothing Is Blocking Up Our Oceans
According to a study sponsored by outdoor clothing company Patagonia, a standard synthetic fleece jacket releases 1.7 grams or 250,000 microfibers every time it’s washed.
At present, “clothing made from synthetic fabrics” is one of the “major contributors to the microplastics problem” which is why outdoor clothing companies are looking at ways to adapt fabric construction to minimize fiber shedding.
Although it’s still early days, progress is already being made and research indicates that high-quality adventure apparel and more tightly woven performance gear sheds a lot fewer microfibers during the average wash than older or more loosely woven, budget items.
Microfibers from outdoor clothing made “from post-consumer plastic bottles” may end up in the sea just like any other, but it’s still better than using virgin materials like polyester.
Furthermore, as both plastic bottles and the polyester are derived from fossil fuels, so reducing the demand for virgin materials plays an important role in combatting climate change.
Buying products made from recycled materials is a step in the right direction, but it won’t bring microfiber pollution to an end on its own.
How Our Love Of Clean Clothes Is Fleecing The Environment
Household washing machines play a large role in the dissemination of microfibers, and every time we launder a garment, we risk releasing another thousand or so of the pesky little things into the environment.
While I’m not suggesting we abandon cleanliness and revert to a time time when jeans were only considered wearable once they were coated in several generations of dirt, there is something to be said for only washing clothes when it’s really necessary.
If you’d rather not stroll around in stained, mud-covered adventure gear, invest in sustainable items made from natural or recycled materials, and be mindful about your laundry routine.
Washing your clothes less frequently while using a minimal amount of detergent can go a long way to lessening the number of microfibers you contribute to the environment.
Using a laundry bag, like the Guppyfriend Washing Bag, can also reduce the release of microfibers, as can a microfiber filter that attaches (with some difficulty) to your washing machine and can, theoretically, capture over “90% of all microfibres (both synthetic and natural).”
Other tricks you can employ to reduce your microfiber emissions include:
- Reducing the amount of water you use for each load of laundry;
- Washing full loads whenever possible;
- Avoiding delicates settings which use more water and release as much as 800,000 more fibers than a standard cycle;
- Allowing your clothes to line-dry, rather than using an electric clothes dryer.