You may or may not have heard the term "microfiber pollution", but it's something very real and I suspect that you will be hearing more and more about it if you haven't already. I was vaguely aware of it, however, the extent and severity was recently brought to my attention by a close friend whose work is related to water issues. Microfiber pollution means that every time you wash your synthetic fiber clothing or fabrics (nylon, polyester, spandex, fleece, acrylic and some say even rayon), millions of tiny microfiber particles (plastics) are being washed into our waterways. The microfiber particles are too small to be filtered out by our current wastewater treatments and so they are now in our rivers and oceans and showing up inside of fish and other sea life, mammals and birds. These fibers are also the largest portion of the worlds shoreline pollution. And... these microfibers become increasingly toxic by absorbing other contaminants from municipal and agricultural runoff. I want to add that we are eating these fibers as well - not only from fish sources but microfibers have been found in sea salt, tap water and even our beer!
I thought this issue is of particular interest to our sewing community. We are very fortunate in that we get to choose what fabrics we make our clothing out of instead of taking what the fashion industry gives us. However, as a sewist, I find myself doing LOTS of laundry - pre-washing fabrics before and after sewing them up. I found the suggestions below very informational and my household is adopting many of these practices into our daily routines.
I bought myself a few early holiday presents this year to help as well. First, I bought this Cora Ball shown below. It's designed to catch lint and threads in the washing machine. We use dryer balls and lint traps in our dryers but the washing machine lint is just as important. I have to say that I haven't found too many fibers on my Cora ball. Perhaps I have the spin cycle set too high on my washing machine. I need more practice. I also just ordered the Guppyfriend washing bag and the Filtrol microfiber filter for my washing machine. I haven't received those yet but am looking forward to trying them out. You can find out more about those in the links below and perhaps they would make great holiday gifts.
By the way, I have purchased an extra Cora Ball and Guppy Bag and plan on giving them away to two lucky people. Follow me on Instagram @sewhouse7 and in a few days, I will explain how to win.
The best solutions involve improving our waste water treatments, developing washing machines that have built in filters and most of all, putting pressure on clothing and fabric manufacturers to use more natural fiber products and to produce fewer or at least better quality microfiber fabrics.
I have always preferred natural fibers to synthetic - they just feel and look better in my opinion. However, sometimes synthetic fabrics are the best option for performance clothing. My family is constantly washing our kayaking, skiing, biking and work-out clothing. Although these fabrics may be difficult to avoid completely, by being aware of the issue we may be more prone to take care of these clothes - maybe not wash them as frequently and choose performance wool over polypro. Better yet, not buy so many articles of clothing - just what you need not want.
Yuk! So what else can we do to help this situation? I know I don't want to give up my yoga pants completely - I work from home in comfort! However, there are things we can do to help. Below is a list of ideas and things to do and think about when purchasing clothes and washing clothes AND fabric. I found the first list (15 - 1) from this article by the Plastics Pollution Coalition.