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Reduce plastic microfibre pollution

Plastic microfibres come from clothing (and other fabric items) made of synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon, and spandex. Once they’re released into the environment (mainly as the result of machine washing and drying), they attract toxins and build up in the food web, causing harm to wildlife and humans.

Avoid adding synthetic fabrics to your wardrobe and home.

  • Choose durable clothing* made of natural fibres. The fibres released from natural materials such as hemp, linen, organic cotton, flax, organic wool, and bamboo are biodegradable. They do not persist in the environment, and do not cause long-term damage. *The same applies for other fabric items such as towels, bedding, and curtains.
  • If items made of synthetic fabrics can’t be avoided, choose options that do not create new sources of plastic. For some items like raingear, it may be difficult to choose natural fibres. In this case, it helps to choose options made of recycled plastics or to purchase secondhand items. Extra care needs to be taken in washing these items as they will shed microfibres when machine washed and dried.

Change your washing habits to reduce the amount of microfibres released from your clothes.

  • Wash clothes only when necessary and use short washing cycles. The less you wash clothing, the fewer microfibres are released.
  • Wash in cold water. This reduces the number of microfibres that are shed.
  • Reduce friction between clothing in the washer so that less microfibres break off by:
⚬ Washing full loads of clothing;
⚬ Using washing liquid instead of powder; and
⚬ Washing clothing with a rough surface (like jeans) separately from soft clothing (like fleece).
  • Avoid high spin cycles, the “delicate” cycle, and use of tumble driers. The more tumbling and friction, the more microfibres are released into the environment. Research has shown that larger water quantities associated with the delicate cycle also lead to more microfibres being shed. When possible, air dry your clothing and avoid the use of dryer and washer cycles with high revolutions.
  • Buy a filter to trap microfibres. Research has found that up to 90% of microfibres can be captured with filters on washing machines. The following are examples of products that prevent microfibres from entering our waterways (via Plastic Soup Foundation).

Cora Ball laundry ball that collects microfibres
Filtrol 160 washing machine filter
Guppy Friend filtering washing bag
Lint LUV-R washing machine filter
Planetcare washing machine filter
Xeros Technologies washing machine filter for manufactures (not directly available to consumers)

Help others reduce microfibres by supporting systemic change

  • Support organizations and researchers working for systemic change, such as the regulation of washing machine manufactures to include filters in their products, the independent assessment and labelling of textiles / clothing to indicate how many microfibres they release, and holding cigarette manufacturers responsible for their products’ waste (which includes microfibres). For example, see Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Healthy Waters Program.

  • Share your positive actions and what you learn with others to help motivate additional positive change. Tag your social posts related to reducing microfibres with #AnOceanOfGood.

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