Where Does Microfiber Pollution Come From?

In the 1940’s, a Dupont engineer came up with a new product called nylon. The new miracle product was a huge advancement at the time. Starting in the 1950’s, fabrics made from synthetic materials (plastic) became commonplace. Women stood in lines to get their hands on a pair of nylons which were much cheaper than their silk counterparts. Several other types of plastic synthetic fibers were developed to take advantage of these low cost, high performance materials. They include acrylic, polyester, rayon, and spandex.

As the popularity of these fabrics grew they have slowly taken over as the material of choice for new textiles. As you can see in the chart below, textile production has grown rapidly since the 1960’s and synthetic production is now outpacing natural fibers.

Chart referenced from Ecotextiles Paper

Starting in 2011, a groundbreaking study conducted by Mark Anthony Browne found tiny fibers in waterways and beach sand. Since then, hundreds of researchers have begun to study this new pollutant.

The consensus in the findings of these reports is that almost all of our waterways have some level of micro-plastics in them, most of which are fibers. They are tracing much of the pollution back to our clothing and other textile sources. Some fibers are airborne when entering the environment. But many come from our washing machines, since wastewater treatment plants cannot remove them all.

Check out our website to learn more about microfiber pollution and what you can do about it.