Microplastic pollution is a major problem for the environment. As much as 311 million tons of plastics were produced in 2014, and those numbers are expected to double or triple in the next 50 to 60 years. Only 14 per cent of annual plastic production is recovered and just two per cent is recycled in a closed-loop fashion. Another 72 per cent is unrecovered and either goes directly to landfills or escapes recovery systems altogether. And a lot of that winds up in lakes, rivers, oceans and communities globally.
Plastics dumped in the waterways don’t stay there. They make their way back to humans and animals through the food chain and the environment. Textiles shed in home laundering are among the largest contributors of microplastic pollution. While 99 per cent of microplastic materials are captured at wastewater treatment facilities, billions of plastic particles are reaching the aquatic environment.
All fabrics shed microfibers. Textile design plays a very important role in the process. In general, natural fibers shed more than polyester or nylon. Cellulosic-based fibers shed more microfibers that does polyester. On the other hand, cotton and rayon, both cellulosic, biodegrade in water at a rapid pace, whereas polyester has virtually no degradation.