We can turn the tide on microfibre pollution

Look closely at one strand of your hair. Now imagine a strand of plastic one hundred times finer than your strand of hair – that’s a microfibre. They are some of the most invisible plastic pollution in our waterways, and our synthetic clothing and textiles are to blame.   

Microplastic pollution is a complex issue with many “pinch points” where the problem can be addressed. Plastic-Free YYC believes individuals, businesses, and government need to take leadership. Read about the “pinch points” below and note where your individual actions can help turn the tide on this rising ocean issue.

Modify Manufacturing

  • More durable products need to be developed that do not shed so many fibres. However, every new material requires raw materials and energy. Some companies, like Patagonia, are taking a leadership role and researching microfibres and developing sturdier products.

Power Your Purchase

  • The easiest thing to do is wear natural fibres: cotton, wool, linen, hemp, silk, and bamboo. These materials are not made of plastic and the fibres they shed will decompose naturally. You may just help the local economy, too, as Alberta grows the most hemp in Canada.
  • Research the companies you buy from and support those who are contributing to solutions.
  • Even when buying used synthetic clothing, select those with higher durability – your clothes will last longer and produce less microfibres.
Natural fibres like cotton, wool, silk, and cashmere don’t produce plastic pollution

Be a Laundry Leader

  • Do less laundry! (Who can argue with that?)
  • Research shows that using liquid detergent, cold water, and washing with a full load helps reduce microplastics.
  • Prevent microfibres from entering the water system by using new technologies designed to capture microfibres. Reserach by the University of Toronto in 2018 found the Cora Ball captured 26% of microfibres, and the Lint LUV-R captured 87%. Together, most of the microfibres were removed from the water system, so the message here is to buy a few of these new technologies and use them simultaneously. Other brand names to look out for are the Guppybag, Filtrol 160, and Xeros Technology.

Demand More From Your Municipality

  • Wastewater Treatment Plants can play a role in reducing microplastics from entering the environment, but right now the capture technologies just aren’t in place yet. Understanding the challenges in microfibre detection and removal is the first step. You can write or call your city councillor to ask them to make this issue a municipal priority.

Support Organizations Saving the Sea

  • Plastic-Free YYC is tackling plastic pollution here in Calgary, but you may choose to support other organisations too. Oceancleanwash.org is a good place to look for news and solutions about this issue.

~ Andrea