Microplastics are a common form of plastic, often overlooked literally and figuratively, that are less than 1mm in size. A popular type of micro plastics are microbeads. Common in facial scrubs, toothpaste, and other toiletries microbes are too small to be caught by waste water treatment plants. Inevitably they end up in our waterways and into the stomachs of aquatic animals. Last week the Canadian government began a plan to ban the sale and production of microbeads in 2018.

While this is excellent news, microbeads are not the only form of microplastics. Microplastics also come in the form of microfibres. These mini fibres shed from synthetic clothing, when washed, and enter water systems. In 2011 Mark Browne did one of the first studies on microfibre waste and discovered that a single polyester fleece garment can produce more than 1,900 fibres per wash [1]. This year Patagonia commissioned a new study on their jackets. They discovered that a single fleece jacket sheds “as many as 250,000 synthetic fibres per wash” [2]. Thus it is reasonable to assume a large portion of microplastics in marine environments is from washing fabrics like acrylic, neon, polyester, and fleece.  

After years, research into the full implications of microplastics in our environments is finally being done.  Keep your eyes out for more information and see if you can use any of the following solutions to reduce your microplastic impact on the world. 

[1] Browne A., 2011, Accumulations of microplastic on shorelines worldwide: sources and sinks, Environmental Science and Technology. 

[2] O’Connor, M. C., 2016, Patagonia’s New Study Finds Fleece Jackets Are a Serious Pollutant.