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Monday Mailbag: Microfibers

This is the first in our weekly series ‘Monday Mailbag’, where our team shares the answers to some of the compelling, headscratchingly awesome emails we get on a daily basis.

Questions and answers have been edited for length and enhanced with as many links, photos, and video clips as we can muster.

Have a question of your own? Our team can be reached at connect@threadinternational.com


Today’s Mailbag:
Topic: Microfibers (tiny threads shed from fabric – often during washing)
Thread Expert: Kelsey Halling, Director of Impact


Question:
Hey!

A friend recently sent me this article:

I’m sure this is something on your radar but I had never heard about this.

I’d love to hear your thoughts when you have a minute.


Answer:

Hi!

Yes – this has been something we’ve been following for a little over a year, but has received lots of attention lately because of the Patagonia study that recently went public.

It’s a major problem that I don’t think people are very aware of, so bringing it to the attention of the general public is great. It’s a similar problem to the microbeads that are used in so many beauty products.

The Blame Game

The frustrating thing is that while we recognize the severity of this issue, there isn’t one solution that exists to tackle it. There are arguments over whether it’s the responsibility of fiber manufacturers or the washing machine industry, which only spreads blame around and isn’t helpful to anyone.  

My Take

Personally, I think that the solution needs to span several industries. I don’t see why we shouldn’t start seeing new filtration systems in washing machines as well as innovative approaches to fiber manufacturing

Neither of those solutions are easy., but neither is drilling oil from thousands of feet underground, refining it, and shipping it all over the world; and we’ve managed that process pretty well for the past century.

What We’re Doing

From Thread’s perspective (we have a lot of team email chains on this topic) we have responsibility for the impact of our products. This includes the micro-fibers shed from polyester fabric.

We’re closely following the research of textile specialists in Europe through the Mermaid program and Plastic Soup Foundation, that are looking at coatings and other fiber additives to reduce shedding. It sounds as though they’ll be releasing more information on their research in December. Production will work closely with our vendors as we continue to develop fabrics, especially fleece, to find a better way of doing things.

I wish I had a more direct; “we know this is a problem and here are the 3 things we’re doing to fix it”, response for you, but it’s one of those sustainability problems where the solution is still being developed and we’re doing everything we can to stay on top of it!

Kelsey


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