What is a Microplastic?
The issue of microplastics is a relatively new one in the fashion industry, but one that could cause a total shakeup of the industry because of it's pervasiveness in our oceans, our food chain, and even our drinking water.
By definition, a microplastic is a tiny piece of plastic, which is often so small that it's invisible. There are two types of microplastics: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are released directly into the environment from something like washing. Secondary microplatics find their way into the ocean by way of a singular plastic item breaking down into much smaller pieces of plastic. Microfibers, which are shed from textiles, are a type of primary microplastic.
I love the Story of Stuff's video on microfibers because they do a really good job explaining the problem:
When I decided to create Reprise, my main focus was to improve the materials that touch our skin. I had no idea microplastics would become such a huge issue until the Ellen MacArthur Foundation released it's A New Textiles Economy report noting that each year, trillions of microfibers are released into our water from washing our clothes.
Luckily, there are a few great solutions you can implement to prevent this! The first would be to stick with natural fabrics. Materials like cotton, wool, and Tencel also shed fibers, but because they're made from natural materials, they are biodegradable.
Next, since buying only natural fabrics is tough for a lot of us (I definitely own some old synthetic leggings that I still love), the GuppyFriend is a protective bag that you can place your synthetic clothing into for the washing machine. What's cool is that it catches any microfibers that would normally shed and then you can clean the bag after the wash and dispose of the microfibers into the waste bin to keep them from entering into our water systems. The Cora Ball is also an option, it's a loose ball that bounces around during the wash cycle and catches any loose microplastics, which you can then also dispose into the trash.
It's great to see so many solution-oriented ideas out there - now it's just up to us to implement them to keep microplastics out of our oceans and ultimately out of our bodies!