The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. Besides the massive carbon footprint and waste it produces, it’s also responsible for harmful microfibres it releases into the world.
So, what are microfibers in clothing, how do they appear and pollute the environment, and can sustainable t-shirts fix this situation? Let’s investigate.
What are microfibres (microplastics)
You may already know that synthetic materials like nylon or polyester are made from plastic that’s not biodegradable. Well, that plastic is made from tiny microplastics, otherwise known as microfibres, that are invisible to the human eye but very harmful when released to the environment.
This microfibre release can happen through the air and water, leading to massive pollution of our land, oceans, rivers, and seas.
The primary way microfibres get into the environment is during the washing of our clothes. Each year, millions and millions of such microplastics end up in our oceans while we wait for our loads to be done.
The second way microfibers end up in the environment is by simple shedding that happens during wear.
Why is it a problem?
When the microplastics travel through our water waste systems, they pick up a lot of toxic chemicals from things like detergents, and once they’re in the ocean, sea animals and plankton ingest them.
This is clearly extremely harmful to the animals, but not only them as later we, who eat fish and other seafood, end up eating microfibers.
Research has shown that around 25% of see food we eat contains microplastics!
Besides the harm to the animals and people, microplastics pollute the oceans, seasides etc.
The biggest culprits
Synthetic fabrics are the main problem, and knowing that over 60% of our clothes are made from synthetics, it’s clear that the environmental situation is dire.
The fabrics that shed the most such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, are made from oil and are beloved by fast fashion as they’re cheap, easy to produce and bring more profit selling clothes.
As always, money wins.
So what’s the alternative? Instead of choosing synthetic fabrics, it’s better to choose are natural textiles like wool, cotton, hemp, viscose and modal.
These fabrics do not release microfibers into the world and are less harmful. However, it’s important to note that choosing only organic fabrics is a truly suitable option for making a real impact.
Why? Because even natural fabric production comes at a significant environmental toll due to chemical and other pesticide use.
What can we do?
It does not sound great either way, right? So what can we do to minimize the fashion industry’s microfibre release and general carbon footprint?
Here are a few tips:
- Choose organic and eco-friendly fabrics such as organic or recycled cotton, linen, wool.
- Opt for clothes made from tightly woven synthetic fibers in cases when natural textiles are not an option as these shed less.
- Buy from sustainable brands that make clothing from recycled plastics and synthetic fabrics.
- Reconsider how you do laundry. Handwash when possible, use a shorter wash cycle in your wash machine (fewer microfibres will be released), wash less often in general, and only when you have a full load, so there’s less friction and shedding.
- Buy less stuff. One of the best and easiest ways to reduce microfibres release and environmental impact is to buy less stuff and, when needed, shop second hand. This way, you will reduce your carbon footprint and pollution.
- When buying new clothes, choose high-quality pieces that will last you longer and have a seal of sustainability. It’s always important to look at how the clothes you are ordering have been produced and what are the fabrics involved.