Tackling the microplastics problem with sustainable textile materials

Microplastic have been part of the public discussions since the mid-2010’s, but we still don’t know the full extent of the problem they pose. Being 100% microplastics free is one of the sustainability promises of Spinnova’s materials.

Microplastics are minuscule plastic particles, invisible to the eye, that originate from materials and waste made of plastic. A significant part of this problem is polluting microfibres from synthetic textile materials – in fact, clothes made from these were estimated to contribute 35% of the primary microplastics released into our oceans and waterways in 2017. In addition, TextileExchange estimates that the annual amount of primary synthetic microfibers released from textiles is around an eye-watering 500,00 mt per year.

Microplastics accumulate in the environment, fish and us humans

Considering the vast amounts of microfibres released into our environment annually, it is alarming to learn that we don’t even know the full extent of the impact they have as they are hard to detect and track. What we do know – based on many scientific studies – is that microplastics accumulate in the environment, fish, animals and us humans.

Across oceans and other bodies of water, fish and other sea creatures mistake microplastics for food, and carry them up the food chain to other animals and humans who eat these fish. However, microplastics do much more than merely accumulate in animals and humans as the chemicals used in plastics can cause cancer, damage to the kidney, liver and intestines, and abnormalities in hormonal balance. These microfibres occur not only in water, but can be also found in air which can cause lung damage in material factories, for example, where they can pose a health risk to the workers.

Spinnova one of the solutions

We don’t have time to find out what the long-term effects are at scale – we need to change the way we use materials in the textile industry fast, by embracing sustainable and natural materials. The very reason why we ensured our SPINNOVA® materials – just like all pulp-based materials – sheds no microplastics nor polluting microfibres to the environment.

The best part is, we’re not solving this problem alone. Alongside us, other finalists in the ongoing Conservation X Labs (CXL) Microfibre Innovation Challenge are also working on innovations to reduce microplastics in the environment. For example TreeKind is creating a plant-based leather alternative from waste, and Pangaia is applying MTIX’s multiplexed laser surface enhancement technology to modify the surfaces of fibers within a fabric to prevent microfiber shedding. And these are few of the many innovations accelerating the efforts to make a more sustainable tomorrow.

Sources

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Primary microplastics in the oceans (2017)

TextileExchange, Preferred Fibre & Material Market Report (2019)

Sunanda Mishra, Chandi charan Rath, Alok Prasad Das, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Marine microfiber pollution: A review on present status and future challenges (2019)