Stemming the Tide (IWTO Release)

Wearing well-made clothes and washing them less will help reduce microfibre pollution, experts find.

Microplastic pollution has emerged as one of the most critical global challenges of our times. It is estimated that 12.2 million tonnes of plastic enter the global marine environment each year. Of this, 3.2 million tonnes are estimated to be primary microplastics, i.e. particles less than 5mm in size released directly into the environment.

A new major report confirms that microfibres – tiny pieces of plastic shed from clothing made of synthetic fibres – are escaping waste-water treatment plants and ending up in the food chain. While all garments shed to some extent during use and washing, the quality and type of fibre matters.

The review estimates that between 20% and 35% of all microplastics in marine environments come from synthetic clothing, and this share is growing.

To reduce the impact, researchers recommend investing in higher quality garments which appear to shed less, washing clothes less often, and washing on gentler cycles.

Increasing the amount of natural fibres in our wardrobes would make a “significant contribution,” to solving the problem, the authors said. For information on the full report, see the links below.

Microplastics pollution press release

IWTO_Fact Sheets_Wool in Marine Environments