It’s all over the news that we must act now to slow down global warming, and one of the things I focus on in this blog is about purchasing eco friendly leggings, so that we can help the environment in small ways. Unfortunately the reality is that almost everything we wear nowadays (specially fitness wear), even if eco friendly, will shed microfibers into our rivers and oceans when doing laundry. You must be wondering what is microfiber? Read on more below to understand why we need to start using microfiber filter wash bags and microfiber balls, and how microfiber in clothing can harm us in numerous ways if we don’t take action to prevent it from getting into our oceans.
What Are Microfibers?
So I am pretty sure you might have heard of micro plastics. Well, microfibers are a type of micro plastics, and so are micro beads (comes from beauty products) and micro flakes (comes from plastic waste, such as plastic bags and plastic bottles). Microfibers are less than 10 micrometers (just to compare, that’s 1/5 of a stand of human hair), so it’s very difficult to see it with the naked eye. Microfibers are usually made from the following materials or as well a combination of them:
Microfibers are used in many products such as cleaning cloths, mops, and athletic wear. It’s super popular for athletic clothing to be using microfiber materials as they are moisture-wicking (which means you can sweat and not feel wet), comfortable due to its elasticity, and durable. Although there are many benefits to this type of material, there is a big downside that is affecting us and our lovely Earth.
Unfortunately this versatile & popular material is the most polluting type of micro plastic compared to the other two that I have mentioned above. According to some studies done by Harvard, they tested the tap water from a particular city, and 81% of the water has micro plastics in it, and out of that 81%, 98% of it was microfibers. That’s a pretty scary study!
It gets into our waste water from the time we are doing our laundry, and our laundry machines do not filter out such minuscule particles. Millions and millions of microfibers are released into our wastewater every day. Water treatment plants usually do try to filter them out, but about 1-2% still go into our oceans, and overtime that is a huge amount of microfibers polluting our waters. Actually the fact is that developing countries do not have the technology to filter microfibers, so you can imagine the percentage of microfibers going into our ocean must be much higher. Another icky side about microfibers, is that they act like a sponge, absorbing any harmful substance that it gets into contact with. If you had the choice, would you like to add some microfibers to your breakfast cereal? I don’t think so.
How Do Microfibers Affect Us & The Environment?
For starters, they are non-recyclable, so that’s already a sign that it’s not good for our environment. As microfibers are leaking into our oceans, marine life are eating these tiny little particles, and this obviously goes up into the food chain. This means that we are also ingesting these microfibers from our food and water. Some of the main sources of microfibers in our food water are seafood, seasalt, tap and bottled water, and beer.
Although there are not enough studies yet regarding the health impact of ingesting plastic, according to this study, they have found out that these microfibers bio accumulate in the liver of some fish. Like mentioned above, not only is the microfiber itself a foreign object, but also it absorbs any sort of toxic substance. Can you imagine how this can devastate the health of a fish, other animals, and us?
The good news is that there is a way to minimize microfiber pollution as much as we can if we use a microfiber filter wash bag or microfiber ball while doing our laundry.
There Is Hope…
It would be easier to say that we shouldn’t wear clothes that are made with microfibers anymore, but let’s be honest that it’s not realistic in our day and age. As well, even though microfibers can pollute our environment, other fabric such as cotton, uses up A LOT of water, so it’s hard to compare which one is more harmful to the environment. By all means, we know 100% that plastic is not good for our environment, but there are some companies that use recycled plastic water bottles to produce yoga leggings such as Wolven Threads.
The best thing we can do is try to stop microfibers from getting into our waste water and into our oceans from the BEGINNING of the process. We can do this by using:
- Microfiber Filter Wash Bag – fortunately there are a few brands that sell them online. This type of wash bag is made out of very fine mesh, which only water and laundry soap can go through it. In this wash bag, you can put any of your clothing that is made from microfiber materials, and after sometime you will see that these tiny little microfibers will accumulate inside the bag. Although not ideal, after accumulating a lot of the microfibers, you should throw them away inside some type of plastic container (it’s better this way, so that at least they don’t go into the ocean).
- Microfiber Ball – this ball (about the size of a softball) is made our of 100% plastic, and you just need to throw it in your laundry machine to catch the microfiber that will be released from your synthetic clothing. After about 10-20 washes, you can remove some of the microfiber that gets attached at the center of the ball.
- Washing Machine Microfiber Filter – this is a filter which you need to install in your washing machine. Not only does it catch microfiber, but it also traps lint, hair, sand, dirt, pet fur, and etc. You only need to clean it after about 8-10 washes.
You can read my reviews on the 3 items above here.
Be Aware & Care
So now that we know a little more about microfibers and where they come from, we can try our best to avoid it from polluting our water. Did you know that 60% of the clothes that we wear are made from synthetic fibers? That’s really a lot, so we must share the message with all our friends, family, and colleagues and do something about it. Luckily nowadays we have more innovative ideas that can help us to make a difference, and using the products above might not be the perfect solution, but it sure helps a lot. If we all begin to be aware about the impact of small things that we do in our daily lives, it can have a better effect on our environment.
Please feel free to share any more ideas below on how we can protect our environment when we are doing our daily chores, such as laundry.