Today’s hot story is microfibres. While the UK Government banned microbeads in January, there are still trillions of microfibres floating around our waterways and oceans.
One of the biggest sources of these tiny shreds of plastic is synthetic fibres in clothes. An Australian study found that a single garment can produce more than 1,900 fibres in a single wash in a domestic washing machine. A Plymouth University experiment found up to 700,000.
But this is a difficult one for consumers: natural fabrics like wool, cotton and linen could do with a bit of synthetic in them to make them more durable. We hate to say it but a 100% pure lambswool sweater does have a tendency to wear out on the elbows pretty quickly.
So what are our options? First up is doing the laundry less often (yay!) as, the more you wash, the faster your clothes will wear out. The fibres dislodge themselves due to friction in the washing cycle so less rubbing means fewer fibres released. Tumble drying will likely add to the shedding but at least the dry lint is collected and binned, not flushed down the sewer.
Higher quality garments with a lower percentage of acrylic or polyester shed less so investing in fewer, more expensive items with a higher amount of natural fibres would pay off from the microfibre perspective.
Weighing up the durability and cost of synthetics versus the ecological advantages of natural fibres, a compromise is not out of the question. Indeed, it may be necessary if sufficient appeal is to be garnered from the mass market. If everyone bought 20% acrylic jumpers instead of 100%, that’s a heck of a lot better than 1% of us switching to pure wool.
Finally, Guppy Bags are now on the market. You put your clothes in a bag for washing and it collects the fibres so they can be emptied into the bin afterwards. They are quite expensive and we can’t help wondering if a (cotton) pillow case tied with string would do the job a whole lot cheaper. Still, here are some places to buy them: