In recent years, attention has been given to a new kind of plastic pollution: microplastics. Both Canada and the United States have moved to ban plastic microbeads from cosmetic products, but microbeads aren’t the only kind of harmful microplastic. Recently, research has been made available to the public showing that fibers that shed from your clothing while being washed also find their way into local waterways, and that can cause problems.
Every type of fabric sheds fibers, whether it’s hemp, cotton, wool, or polyester. But specifically, problems arise when polyester fibers are shed. Polyester is a synthetic polymer derived from a type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. When these polyester fibers are shed, they pose the same risk to the environment that microbeads and other plastic pollution does.
Polyester may eventually meet the same fate that plastic microbeads did. California has recently mandated that clothing containing polyester be tagged with a warning about the environmental impact of the fabric. Many clothing retailers, including tentree, are examining the phasing out of polyester entirely, but in the meantime, there are solutions to the issue of microfiber shedding.
Do you have polyester clothing? This is what you can do about it.
The first thing we recommend you do is to keep using those garments. It may sound a little counterintuitive, but donating your polyester clothing doesn’t solve the problem, nor does throwing it in the trash. Always use your clothing, even the garments with polyester, until they can’t be comfortably worn anymore.
The way you choose to wash your clothing has an impact as well. If you can, wash your clothing less often and only with other similar garments. Washing your polyester shirts with an abrasive garment like jeans or towels can increase microfiber shedding. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, investing in a front-loading washer can also slow the process of microfiber shedding.
Finally, we recommend a product called the GuppyFriend, which is a bag that captures microfibers shed during the process of washing. You wash your clothing inside of the bag, and over time, you’ll see small fibers beginning to accumulate. Just like with a dryer filter, you can remove these fibers before continuing to wash. The GuppyFriend bag doesn’t just capture microfibers, but it also reduces the shedding. This means that your clothing will actually last longer!
The bag has been independently tested by the University of California in Santa Barbara on behalf of Patagonia, the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT, the German Textile Research Institute, as well as several industry partners, like Mile, and Manufactum.
The results of each of these independent tests were the same. The GuppyFriend bag reduced the amount of fiber breakdown by 79% for partially synthetic textiles and 86% for completely synthetic textiles. Each test found that almost 100% of fibers were captured. Additionally, after 50 washes, the bag was still completely intact. There was no visible decrease in washing efficiency. Stains like blood, ketchup, and chocolate were washed out without issue.
Microfibers are small. Over time, you may begin to see a build up in your GuppyFriend bag, but even if you don’t, the bag is still doing its job.
Our ultimate objective is to assist in completely ending microfiber shedding. These tips, along with the GuppyFriend bag, will help us all achieve that goal.