The story of microfibres

When it comes to buying clothes, we are spoilt for choice. Gone are the days when we only bought new garments as the weather changed. Today, clothes shopping is as much about expressing our individual style and tracking trends as it is about dressing for the elements.

But this choice has come at a cost. As demand for apparel has increased over the decades due to the rise of “fast fashion” and globalisation. Due to the dramatic intensification of high street stores’ production, there are new garments hitting the shop floors every fortnight. Prior to this, many fashion brands had only two – four collections each year but things have changed. This impact has radically affected the market for fabrics. Natural materials like cotton that are grown, not made, can only be produced in quantities permitted by nature. So, to keep up with demand, clothing manufacturers have increasingly turned to man-made materials that can be produced at much higher volumes but have a hidden price. 

What to do with these non-biodegradable clothes when they are discarded is a problem we all know about. And yet, another problem rears its head whenever they are washed. Its relative obscurity may stem from the fact that while this problem is as big as the first, its evidence is anything but.

The microfibre problem can be tackled on four fronts.

The first is to opt for natural materials wherever possible. Many fashion retailers are already making a point of avoiding synthetics altogether1.
 

© Story of Stuff

 

Next, we can try to reduce the overall quantity of apparel we consume. Some brands are encouraging their customers to this end2 by focusing on durable garments in classic styles, instead of flimsy products and ephemeral trends. 

Some companies are also working on creating new synthetics that shed fewer microfibres, as well as better treatments for existing materials3

Finally, washing innovations may also provide solutions, perhaps through new filtration systems4 or waterless machines5

For investors interested in making a difference, there are plenty of options to consider. Could Impact Investment help create a more sustainable fashion industry?


1 People Tree 
2
 Fast Company 
3 Patagonia 
4 Guppy Friend
5 Tersus Solutions