Have you heard of the term 'microfibers'? These are tiny synthetic pieces of plastic yarn often shed by our clothing when in the washing machine. While they sound small, these microfibers have a big impact on our water ways and oceans, unfotunately often making their way to be ingested by marine life.
Near the North Pacific Gyre of the Pacific Garbage patch, researchers found that micro-plastics were six times more abundant than zooplankton. In addition to the tiny plastic particles, pollutants such as pesticides and manufacturing chemicals can adhere to the microfibers that then accumulate in aquatic life and consequently end up on our plates.
With a large portion of the microfiber pollution coming directly from our homes, we all have an opportunity to reduce the amount produced from our washing machines, preventing global marine pollution. It is time for us to make a change!
Unfortunately, washing machines do not have a mechanism to filter to capture these microfibers going out in the liquid waste (similar to a lint catcher in a dryer), but there are a number of factors we can look at that impact the amount of fibers that are shed from fabrics in the wash. These include the type of fabric, garment construction and chemical finishes, age of the garment, laundering additives and washing method.
There are a number of factors that impact the amount of fibers that are shed from fabrics in the wash. These include the type of fabric, garment construction and chemical finishes, age of the garment, laundering additives and washing method. In addition to laundry settings, check out these tips below. Do you already do any of these in your home?
We all can do our part to protect the oceans! Microfibers are typically too small to see with the naked eye, resulting in them being out of mind for many. Share these simple ways to help reduce microfiber pollution with your friends and neighbors to encourage everyone to do what they can to prevent pollution from leaving your house and entering the waterways. Let us know which ones you adopt in your household:
1) Whenever possible, opt for fabrics made from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, flax and hemp.
2) Extend the life cycle of your garment by rewearing and reusing for multiple seasons.
3) When you are ready for a new look, donate already-loved clothes to charity or resale shops.
4) Use a commercially available microfiber-catching ball or bag in your laundry loads.
5) Install an external microfiber filter on your washing machine.
6) Be sure to collect and throw lint in the trash!
7) Run full loads of laundry to reduce friction.
8) Separate heavy and solid items like shoes or backpacks from light clothing for less agitation.
Good news: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and manufacturers of appliances and textiles are making efforts to research and find large-scale solutions to prevent these millions of microfibers from reaching our waterways. We're excited to see how this impacts the future of washing clothes and how many microfibers can be correctly disposed of through all of us taking action!