Cheaper clothing made from synthetic fabrics like polyester is a significant pollution source. A May 2018 study of the impact from washing showed a wash cycle could release as many as 17 million microfibres. These tiny fibres then contaminate the food chain.
Here at Insho, we saw a trend of companies transitioning to cheaper synthetic fibres and chose not to follow. In a previous article, we wrote about the benefits of natural fabrics for your wardrobe. While we raised the benefits for comfort and longevity of clothing, we didn’t mention the environmental side.
Stella McCartney held a 2017 fashion show in a landfill as a statement on the impact of fashion on the environment.
Impacts of synthetic fibres
Studies are starting to show microplastics are contaminating the food chain. Nobody is quite sure about the long-term impacts of this bioaccumulation, but the long half-life increases the risks.
These plastics are small enough they’ve been shown to reach organs and the bloodstream in animals. While studies are yet to occur for humans, a corollary could be fine dust. These fine particles increase the incidence of some illnesses. Amazingly a study in Korea showed tiny dust particles might impact mental processes.
Methods to reduce microfibre waste
Although natural fibres have environmental impacts, we endeavour to source use environmentally friendly sources. Also, natural fabrics typically have less energy and water use than their synthetic alternatives.
However, to reduce your environmental impact, try the following actions.
- Avoid polyester garments. Cheap polyester and nylon is a major offender to pollution and waste.
- Recycle garments after use. Most cities offer programs to support clothing or fabric reuse.
- Select more environmentally friendly fabrics such as wool, cotton, bamboo and linen.
- Find companies with an active stance on sustainability.
- Buy garments for the longer term and avoid fast fashion. We all want to stay fashionable, but consider styling that you’ll want to wear season after season.