Fast Fashion Chronicles: Plastic Microfibers

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

For some background, plastic is made from crude oil. Every piece of plastic was made using the finite resource of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change and an array of other human health and environmental issues. And if you didn't already know, our clothes are synthetic, and made of plastic.

Our clothes end up polluting our environment.

Way back when, our clothes used to be made of things like pure linen, cotton, or wool. When plastic manufacturing took over in the 1950's, it became really easy to create plastic from oil and blend it with natural fabrics. In 2007, synthetic blends surpassed cotton as the world's most dominant fiber.

You can find out what your clothing item is made of by looking on the tag. The most common synthetic fabrics used in our clothes are:

  • Polyester

  • Polyester Blend

  • Nylon

  • Acrylic

What are plastic microfibers?

Microfibers are pieces of the plastic fabric that shed off our clothes. They are thinner than our hair, and there's millions of them. Every single piece of clothing sheds off hundreds and hundreds of microfibers every single time it is washed. They have been scientifically established as one of the main causes of plastic pollution, and make up a majority of microplastics in our oceans. It is estimated that about 7,000 microfibers are sloughed off per wash. On average, one human produces 793 pounds of microfibers per year!

So, why is this such a big deal?

The ocean is already polluted with many difference types of plastic, but the fact that these fibers are so small poses another issue all together- human health and our food chain. It is impossible to remove these from our oceans, so every piece that goes into the ocean will be there forever. The most worrisome part is that they don't stay put. They end up in our food and water.

These fibers are ingested by marine life and enter our food chain at all levels. They are toxic, and get stored in tissues and consumed as you go higher on the food chain. That means humans, at the top, are consuming the most toxic version of these chemicals from the fish that we eat. Even fish living in the Mariana's Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, have been shown to have microfibers in their tissues. As of 2018, they are definitely in our tap water. Humans have been shown to ingest 5,800 synthetic debris particles per year. Other sources of plastic ingestion in humans is sea salt and beer. 99% of the extracted particles in this study were synthetic microfibers.

What is the solution?

We need to prevent more microfibers from entering our oceans now. In 2017, Cora Ball was launched as the first ever microfiber filtering ball, made entirely of recycled materials. Inspired by the way coral filters water, Cora Ball is thrown into your wash and filters these synthetic particles out with its "spindles," preventing them from entering our oceans. Every so often, you clean out the fibers yourself from the ball and dispose of them responsibly so they don't end up in our oceans. Watch a video on Cora Ball to learn more.

Cora Ball from Earth Hero

As the one stop shop for all things zero-waste, Earth Hero offers Cora Ball and many other sustainable products that make living intentionally for the planet easy. They ship zero waste and carbon neutral, making the purchase guilt-free! Other things you can get to zero-waste your laundry routine are laundry balls to replace single use dryer sheets, soap nuts that naturally clean your clothes and be re-used, and a mesh bag for your delicates. All offered at Earth Hero.

With responsible companies with big ideas, you can easily make conscious choices that result in a big difference. With a one time purchase in your lifetime, you can stop most microfibers from ending up in our oceans, marine life, and on our plates.

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