Patagonia just funded a study to determine if the microfibers from fleece jackets (which are made of plastic) contaminate marine environments. The results came back with a resounding yes. Yes they do.
The study was performed by the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). The study found that in the process of laundering fleece in a washing machine, a single fleece sheds as many as 25,000 synthetic fibers.
This means that due to the enormous amount of Patagonia fleece jackets out there (about 100,000 Patagonia fleece jackets are washed in washing machines each year), we’re all stuffing the equivalent of 12,000 grocery bags into our public waterways every year.
The UCSB Study:
- 5 fleece jackets (3 Patagonia fleece jackets, a Patagonia nylon jacket, and a budget brand fleece jacket) were washed multiple times.
- The waste water from each wash cycle was put through a 2-step filtration process (333 & 20 micrometer mesh screen).
- The jackets were then put through a 24-hour “killer wash,” which simulates aging of the jacket.
- As the jackets “aged” they saw increases in fiber release by 80%.
- One jacket released 250,000 fibers.
- The average jacket release was 81,317 fibers.
- The nylon jacket release comparable amounts of fiber to the fleece jackets – and sometimes more.
Washing machines are the culprit that efficiently release the microfibers from the jackets and into our public waterways.
A 2016 study states that wastewater treatment plants filter out around 98% of plastic fragments from water but they still send around 65 million pieces of microplastic into our watersheds every day.
Hans Rosling, a Swedish statistician says that 2 billion of the 7 billion people on Earth used washing machines in 2010. He predicts that 5 billion of the 9 billion people on Earth will be using washing machines by 2050.
Why Microfibers Are Bad:
More testing is needed, but this study makes it pretty clear that the micro fibers that are no good – which means that fleece jackets are no good – which means that nylon jackets are no good.
We’re gonna have to rethink this whole jacket thing…