less is now more than ever: the Anthropocene Age 3

photograph: Lagerfeld for Channel

Katherine Martinko reports that Patagonia has commissioned a study to assess the impact of laundering fleece clothing. "Laundry is a surprising source of plastic pollution. Every time you wash synthetic clothes, such as fleeces, athletic wear, and leggings, minuscule plastic fibers are released into the wash water. These fibers are known as microplastics, since they fall into the category of tiny plastic pellets, fragments, and films that measure less than 1 millimetre across. These filaments are difficult to filter out in wastewater processing, ultimately infiltrating our oceans, to the detriment of marine life, and ultimately inside humans. A third of our food is considered to be contaminated by microfibers.

According to Chelsea Rochman, lead on a UC Davis study to understand how ingested plastic transfers chemicals to fish, "These fibbers are a bit longer, and they're loopy getting caught in the digestive tract" ultimately causing starvation even tangling around organs. see: 

Clearly microfibers are an even  greater danger than microbeads, causing The Guardian to refer to the issue as the greatest environmental hazard that you've never heard of when reporting ecologist Mark Browne's research. Major clothing retailers, who could specify fibers that do not have this issue, have largely ignored Browne's research. Interestingly, ecomodista had recently discovered polyester, a Marni skirt purchased on eBay, and was excited how rapidly it dried, but did of course wonder about the viability of such fibbers, aside from petrochemical production. see: http://info.craftechind.com/blog/how-is-polyester-made

photograph: Fernanda Ly appears in Pringle designed by Fran Stringer
Patagonia, a major purveyor of fleece and mountain gear, is committing 100% of their Black Friday sales to the environment possibly the result of their research to assess shedding of fleece garments laundry. Their research found that jackets washed in top-loading machines lose five times more fibers than front loaders (reason enough to upgrade to a front loader, especially a Bosch or other super efficient machine). Additionally, older jackets shed more than newer ones (a conundrum for a company that asks customers to wear their clothing as long as possible); and that wastewater facilities filter out only 65 to 92 percent of micro fibers. Furthermore Patagonia states that there was no statistical difference between the amount of shedding from recycled and virgin polyesters. 

Another strategy for coping with microfibers is hand washing, since agitation causes the shedding of microfibers, but any one who wears fleece realises the improbability of such a task, although it's certainly viable for non fleece polyester clothing. Patagonia has long been a leader in mitigating environmental impact, and surely their scientists are working on this as we speak.