There are plenty of reasons to opt for natural, organic fibers. Not only are they better for human health, but they are less harmful to the environment. In addition to using less pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the material itself is able to break down safely after being washed or discarded. Synthetics, on the other hand, persist and accumulate long after they enter our landfills and ecosystems.
A report published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology traced “microplastic” marine pollution from 18 beaches across the globe, and found that every one of the samples was contaminated. When looking at the total amount of plastic pollution, nearly 80% was made up from smaller bits of plastic, much of it coming from polyester, acrylic, and nylon fibers. The data also showed that the highest concentrations of contamination was close to large urban centers. An experiment conducted by co-author of the report, Dr. Mark Browne from UCSB and colleague Prof Richard Thompson from The University of Plymouth in the UK found that washing machines extracted an average of 1,900 fibers per garment every washing cycle.
Microplastic is a major concern to the health of marine animals, who can ingest the compounds, accumulate in their cells, and make its way through the food chain. Smaller than 1mm, they move through the environment quickly and could potentially be harmful to humans. Clothing fibers are just one of many sources of these contaminants, with other major contributors including disintegrating trash, cleaning agents, cosmetics, and raw plastic pellets used to make everyday objects. While most of us are aware that it is important to recycle and ensure that our garbage does not make its way into the oceans, we must also know be conscious of what we wear and how we launder our garments. Just another good reason to go natural when purchasing apparel!