We are feeding our fleece to the fish.
Microfibers have been found along shorelines from the poles to the equator. Oceans, shorelines, riverbanks, streambeds and lakes; none have escaped our penchant for inexpensive, synthetic clothing.
The small, plastic fibers are shed primarily by synthetic polyester, which is the world’s dominant synthetic fiber, with more than 34 million tons produced annually. Synthetic polyester is created using a chemical reaction known as polymerization, which involves coal, petroleum, air and water. The polymers are extruded while hot into long fibers and then spun and drawn into thread, which allows them to be made into a wide array of blended fabrics. Polyester is durable, wrinkle free, weather resistant—and cheap.
But one single polyester garment can produce 1900 fibers per wash, all of which—eventually—end up in the planet’s various waterways, and an estimated 245 metric tons of microfibers are produced each year. These fibers endure for decades and attract toxins like DDT and BPA, which are then ingested by marine life and move up the food chain.
One Good Deed we can do is invest in products like the Cora Ball or GuppyFriend, both of which are designed to catch the microfibers in the washing machine, preventing them from ever reaching the waterways. Because protecting our oceans, lakes and rivers—and all of the wondrous, incredible, important Life that inhabits them—is inherent to preserving the natural systems that support and sustain us all.