Love Wool: Keep Our Oceans Free From Microfibres.

Buying products made from natural fibres like wool can help you to reduce your contribution to the build-up of synthetic microfibres in the environment.

Most of us have read about the dangers posed by the sort of plastic microbeads that are used in products like shower gels finding their way into the food chain. Thankfully, their use has now been banned in several countries around the world including the US and the UK; however, they aren’t the only form of microplastic causing serious environmental damage.

There is a growing body of evidence pointing to another form of microplastic, microfibres, which are thought to pose an even greater environmental risk. Microfibres are the tiny fibres that our clothes shed when they are washed; they are so small that they risk evading capture by washing machine filters and sewage treatment plants, which means they end up polluting our waterways and ultimately our oceans and lakes.

A recent study found that 85% of tap water tested from samples gathered from more than a dozen countries was contaminated with plastic microfibres. If that’s not scary enough, clothing made from synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon and acrylic are thought to be the number one contributor of microplastics found in our oceans, rivers and lakes. One study found that an ordinary fleece jacket could shed as many as 250,000 microfibres in one wash. In 2011, a paper published by Mark Browne, revealed that microfibres comprised 85% of man-made debris deposited on shorelines around the world.

The issue is not so much that washing clothes creates microfibres, more that synthetic fibres persist in the natural environment for so long that they are regularly turning up in unexpected parts of the food chain. Where a natural fibre like wool, cotton or linen will degrade into its component elements to be safely recycled in the food chain, synthetics are prone to bind with harmful chemical pollutants such as pesticides and subsequently are ingested by small organisms such as plankton and shellfish, causing a range of potential health problems; the extent of which has yet to be fully understood.

If you want to find out more, I recommend viewing a video produced by the Plastic Pollution Coalition.