Ealing Friends of the Earth

Plastic Micro-Fibres are Ubiquitous – You Can Make a Difference

The Micro-Fibre Problem

Microfibres released from washing harm the environment.

With each wash, countless plastic fibres from synthetic textiles are making their way from washing machines into rivers and oceans.

The Guardian calls it ‘the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of’.

The tiny plastic pieces are found in the ice of the artic and the remotest parts of the deep sea.

While the negative impact of microplastics in our environment to our well-being is still not scientifically proven,  indications are overwhelming that we not only harm nature, but also threaten our own health.

Action You Can Take​

A Solution we have researched to the above problem is to purchase a Guppy Friend washing bag

With each wash, countless plastic fibers from synthetic textiles are making their way from washing machines into rivers and oceans.

The Guppyfriend washing bag is a patented solution, that filters out the tiniest microfibers released from textiles during washing. The self-cleaning fabric bag is made of a specially designed micro-filter material. Simply collect the fibers and dispose them of properly.

The tiny plastic pieces are found in the ice of the artic and the remotest parts of the deep sea.

While the negative impact of microplastics in our environment to our well-being is still not scientifically proven,  indications are overwhelming that we not only harm nature, but also threaten our own health.

Micro-Fibres: Animal Impacts​

To date, laboratory studies have largely looked at microplastics as a whole rather than specifically at microfibers. However, since microfibers are a primary constituent of microplastics, such research can provide useful insights.

Lab studies have found that microplastics can harm small aquatic organisms that eat them — including plankton, a hugely important food source for aquatic organisms. These harms include decreased ability to feed and reproduce. Zooplankton given food laced with microplastics in a lab had decreased nutrition and poorer health than the control group. And pearl oysters fed polystyrene microbeads had less energy.

There is concern about impacts due to chemicals that attach themselves to microfibers, too. Rochman fed fish microplastic pellets that had absorbed toxins via prolonged exposure to seawater near San Diego. The fish accumulated the chemicals — which included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), all known carcinogens — and suffered liver toxicity and other pathological changes.

Advocacy groups such as 5 Gyres pointed to Rochman’s study, and to concern that microplastics, including microfibers, could cause large-scale harm by introducing toxins found in waterways (including the legacy industrial contaminants PCB and DDT) into the food chain, to successfully lobby for a U.S. ban on the sale of soaps and cosmetics with added plastic microbeads. (Canada and the United Kingdom have followed suit.)

Humans consume microfibers via bottled and tap water, salt, beer, and seafood, according to a growing list of studies.

In a nutshell, we know very little about the impacts of microfibers on the health of nonhuman animals and people. But what we do know suggests a need for additional research.

Indeed, researchers are working to find out more about actual animal and human impacts. And at the same time, efforts are underway among advocacy groups, researchers and apparel brands aimed at everything from understanding how and which apparel sheds fibers, to preventing fibers from entering wastewater, to potentially altering how textiles are made to reduce shedding. 

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