The invisible danger: Millions of microfibers are released into the environment with every wash cycle

The invisible danger: Millions of microfibers are released into the environment with every wash cycle 1920 768 flustix

Microplastics from cheap clothing: The contamination of our planet begins in our closets. Every time we use a T-shirt or jeans, microfibers get released. Especially when we wash them: Up to nine million microscopic fibers enter wastewater treatment plants through a normal wash cycle. Half of these are filtered out – the rest end up directly in the environment.

Microfibers? Are they dangerous? Yes, they are. Because about three quarters of the fibers are synthetic. That means they are polyester fibers. In other words: What ends up in the environment here is what we popularly know as microplastic. An ecological disaster.

In its remarkable report, “Fossil Fashion – Fast Fashion’s Hidden Dependency on Fossil Fuels,” the global Changing Markets Foundation chronicles the destructive force of synthetic fibers, calling them an “invisible curse.” Some excerpts:

  • „Microfibers are very difficult to capture. It’s estimated that 500,000 tons of microfibers enter wastewater through washing every year – the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.“
  • „A recent study of microplastic pollution around the North Pole found that more than 73% of microfiber pollution comes from polyester fibers.“
  • „Microfibers, even those originally derived from natural fibers, are already loaded with harmful chemicals such as flame retardants and plasticizers, many of which are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.“
  • „Worryingly, a recent study even found microplastics in the placentas of unborn babies, and preliminary findings from The Plastic Soup Foundation show that the presence of nylon microfibers in the lungs impairs the development of parts of the lung tissue.“

The increasing share of fast fashion exacerbates the development. Changing Market Foundation experts warn: „Cheap garments made from plastic fibers are much less durable, and garments from some fashion brands have been found to degrade after just a few washes.“

The foundation calls for consistent reconsideration in the textile industry to at least put the brakes on development. The current situation looks rather bleak. Experts predict that the production of clothing and shoes will increase by 81 percent to 102 million tons per year by 2030. By 2050, more than 22 million tons of microfibers could end up in the sea. An unimaginable amount for which there is not even a suitable comparison.

What to do? Here are 7 tips on how everyone can contribute.

Image Credits: Adobe Stock | 422938349 | Luoxi