How Sustainable Fabrics Reduce Microplastics
It’s no secret that sustainable materials are at the heart of everything we make at Hass. From our t-shirts and our joggers to our cardigans — we craft our products with natural, organic textiles. These fabrics have a smaller carbon footprint than petroleum-based alternatives like nylon and polyester. Because they aren't made with plastics, natural fabrics help curb the amount of microplastics that end up in our environment.
Microplastics are small fragments of plastic particles measuring 5mm in length or smaller, and they come from a variety of sources. These fragments can result from larger pieces of plastic — like plastic bags and water bottles — that break down due to exposure to the sun or ocean currents, from microbeads in face and body scrubs, and from washing clothes and other items made with synthetic microfibers.
The United Nations estimates our oceans have 500 times more microplastics than stars in our galaxy, and by 2030, they are expected to be one of the major causes of ocean acidification and global climate change threats. A recent study also found that microplastics can travel long distances in the wind, polluting remote areas of the world not exposed to modern human life.
Synthetic fabrics (think nylon, acrylic, and polyester) are the largest contributors to microplastics in our oceans — accounting for 35 percent of the overall volume. They also make up 60 percent of textiles used in our clothes. The problem is, when you clean your clothes, towels, bedding, or other materials made from synthetic fabrics in the washer and dryer, they shed tiny pieces of plastic that end up in our waterways and oceans. Shedding also occurs during the manufacturing process when textiles are put through machinery, which is harmful to the workers handling those fabrics.
Once in the oceans, microplastics absorb toxins and bacteria, becoming an even bigger pollutant, and causing detrimental harm to the plants and animals that consume them. That includes us, too. According to a 2019 study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology, Americans swallow tens of thousands of microplastic particles per year.
That’s why our dedication to using natural and certified organic materials in our products is so important. Natural materials are biodegradable, so you don’t have to worry about harming the environment when you wash and dry your clothes. But it’s not up to just us. The broader industry needs to invest more heavily in organic, natural textiles like wool, alpaca, cotton, bamboo, Tencel, and silk if we’re going to drastically reduce the amount of microplastics in our water, in our air — and in our bodies.
Consumers also have a major part to play. You can reduce the amount of microplastics you emit by buying clothing, towels, and bedding from companies that only use only natural materials and Global Organic Textiles (GOTS) certified cotton. For synthetic fabrics you already own, invest in the Cora Ball or GUPPYFRIEND washing bag, both of which collect microplastic fiber sheds during washing — then skip the dryer and hang dry everything. Front load washers have also been shown to produce fewer microplastics during washing.
We can’t promise the road to a healthier planet is going to be easy. But if we work together, we can vastly diminish the amount of microplastics in our ecosystems and incite radical change for a better future.