Y: You dropped a gum wrapper, Don.
D: Oops, thank you, Yaël. I didn’t mean to litter.
Y: Just doing my part to keep our planet pollution-free.
D: It’s not that easy, though, is it? Even our clothes are contaminating the planet with all the microfibers they release.
Y: That’s when we wash our clothes, right?
D: Not only— new research shows that even wearing clothes releases a significant number of microfibers into the air. In one study that focused on polyester, a team of scientists compared four different items of polyester clothing to see how many fibers they released when both washed and worn. They washed the garments at 104 degrees Fahrenheit and found that a single wash can release between 700 and 1400 individual microfibers. They also created a clean lab where they had volunteers wear the different garments and do a series of motions that simulated everyday activities. They found that the clothing released up to 14 ounces of fibers in just 20 minutes of wear. Assuming that a person does 55 laundry cycles a year with about 8 and one-half pounds of polyester per load, a person can release almost 300 million polyester microfibers per year by washing their clothes. Likewise, assuming a person wears 2 pounds of polyester garments for 8 hours a day, a person can release more than 900 million microfibers to the air just by wearing those clothes.
Y: Is this an argument against clothes?
D: Well, certain garments, such as woven polyester, released significantly fewer microfibers. If anything, it’s a call for manufacturers to keep this research in mind when producing fabrics.
Y: Time to roll up your woven polyester sleeves and get to it, fashion designers.