According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, synthetic clothes now account for 60 per cent of the global apparel industry’s annual fibre consumption and 35 per cent of microplastics in the ocean.
Plastic pollution in the ocean has recently attracted a great deal of attention. However, waterways are not the sole place in which plastic gets accumulated. A total of 14% of all plastic is used for making synthetic fibers, mainly for clothing.
Microfibers are particles measuring less than 5 mm in length that are produced in huge quantities at each stage of a fiber’s life cycle, especially during washing, which breaks down the synthetic fibers. Another study states, 176,500 metric tons of synthetic microfibers, mainly nylon and polyester are discharged into terrestrial environments every year around the world.
Large-scale removal of microfibers from the environment is unlikely to be technically feasible or economically viable, so the focus needs to be on emission prevention. Since wastewater treatment plants don’t necessarily reduce emissions to the environment, our focus needs to be reducing emissions before they enter the wastewater strea, says Jenna Gavigan, University of California, Santa Barbara.