Stopping microplastics from clothes washing into the sea. LIFE & the Marine Environment

Washing synthetic garments is now recognised as a major source of microplastics in the marine environment. The MERMAIDS project pioneered new methods for reducing microfibre loss during the laundry process. Read the latest LIFE programmes publication here.

Marine environment microfiber contamination: Global patterns and the diversity of microparticle origins

Microplastic and microfiber pollution has been documented in all major ocean basins. Microfibers are one of the most common microparticle pollutants along shorelines. Over 9 million tons of fibers are produced annually; 60% are synthetic and ∼25% are non-synthetic. Non-synthetic and semi-synthetic microfibers are infrequently documented and not typically included in marine environment impact analyses, resulting in underestimation of a potentially pervasive and harmful pollutant. We present the most extensive worldwide microparticle distribution dataset using 1-liter grab samples (n = 1393).

Read the scientific paper published in Environmental Pollution here.

Microfibers are in the food web in three Lake Michigan rivers

As you dine on locally-caught fish, you probably aren’t thinking of that old acrylic sweater or fleece jacket that you wear and wash frequently. But it turns out that they may be on your plate. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant-funded researchers have found microplastic fibers that come from clothing and other sources in the water, in sediment and in fish in three major rivers that flow into Lake Michigan.

Read more here.

We could be swallowing more than 100 tiny plastic particles with every main meal, a shocking study by scientists from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has revealed

How we swallow 114 pieces of plastic with every meal: Household dust containing soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics fall onto dinner plates before being consumed

We could be swallowing more than 100 tiny plastic particles with every main meal, a shocking study reveals.

The plastic, which can come from soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics, gets into household dust which falls on plates and is consumed.

UK scientists made the discovery after putting Petri dishes containing sticky dust traps on the table next to dinner plates in three homes at meal times.

Read the full article from the Daily Mail here.

How damaging is breathing in microplastics?

Amsterdam, 23 March 2018 – Around 16% of the plastic produced annually in the world consists of textile fibers. In recent decades, production has grown by 6% every year and is now around 60 million tons per year. Synthetic clothing is responsible for endless amounts of microfibers which can even be found in drinking water. And what’s worse, hardly any research has been carried out into the presence of tiny plastic particles in the air. […]

Does breathing these fibers in damage health? In a recently published article in ScienceDirect, the French researchers, this time together with their British counterparts, expressed their extreme concern and called for urgent more in-depth interdisciplinary research. In their article entitled “Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in?” they discuss where particles are coming from and what the health risks are. Most of the particles people breathe in find their way out again.

However there are fears that some of the particles penetrate deep into the lungs and remain there permanently, simply because plastic does not break down. It is possible that the body reacts to these particles, for example through infections, especially in people who are less fit.

Read the full article here.

WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water. […]

A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US. It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.

The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestlé, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.

Read the full article here.

California legislation will require polyester clothing to have a microfiber pollution label

Amsterdam, March 9th – New legislation in California would require clothing items containing more than 50% of polyester to carry a label warning that the garment releases plastic microfibers when machine washed. The label would, in that case, recommend consumers to hand wash the clothing item.  

The bill was introduced in February 2018 and, if it passes, it would be prohibited to sell clothing without this label as of January 1, 2020. Hats and shoes would be exempt of this requirement.  

Read more about it here.

Sustainable shopping: how to stop your bathers flooding the oceans with plastic

If there is one item of clothing that bridges the gap between land and ocean, it’s swimwear. Most of our clothes release tiny plastic fibres into the water every time they are washed. But while some washing machines and waste-water treatments can filter out a large percentage of the plastic, what happens when we wear our bathers, a microfibre bomb, to the beach?

These plastics go directly into the water and are consumed by marine life, which finally ends up on our dinner plate! To help keep our bathers on the outside, rather than in our stomachs, it’s important to know how to take care of them, recycle them, and shop for sustainable swimwear.

Read more here.

Story of Stuff Petition – Stop Plastic Microfiber Pollution!

“Most of us wear synthetic fabrics like polyester every day. Our dress shirts, yoga pants, fleeces, and even underwear are all increasingly made of synthetic materials — plastic, in fact.”

Story of Stuff has started a petition demanding clothing companies to take responsibility for microfiber pollution. “Its time companies took responsibility for the pollution their products cause. That’s why we’ve helped to introduce first-in-the-nation legislation in California this week to address plastic microfiber pollution.”

Read more about and sign the petition here.

UNSW wins largest share of latest ARC funding

Sydney, 7 February 2018 – UNSW has been awarded almost $4 million in ARC Linkage Grants for nine projects, including research on marine pollution, coastal hazards, ocean weather, antibiotic use, and Aboriginal health and wellbeing.


Among the largest ARC Linkage Project grants announced was $786,000 to Dr Mark Browne from UNSW’s School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences and the Dean of Science Professor Emma Johnston. Their project aims to tackle the most abundant type of marine pollution – clothing fibres – which has increased over 450% in 60 years. It will determine how these fibres, along with clothing brands and washing machine filters, reduce fibre emissions and their ecological impact.

Read the full article here.

European Textile Inustry’s Microfiber Initiative Puts Off Taking Action

Amsterdam, 2 February 2018 – Plastic microfibers are released during the machine washing of synthetic clothing. Microfibers in the environment are difficult to tackle and form a huge problem. In its Plastic Strategy the European Commission expresses its support for a new initiative by a European industrial consortium, which aims to prevent plastic microfibers entering water. On 16 January, the very day that the EC presented its Plastic Strategy, the consortium released this declaration.

The aim of the industry’s initiative is to find feasible solutions and develop test methods. To achieve this, the consortium intends to spend the first half of 2018 analyzing the problem. In addition to this it wants to put a draft proposal to the European Commission by the end of 2018 stating which knowledge needs to be developed in order to work on possible solutions. The declaration is incredibly vague.

Read the whole article here.

ONLY YOU Can Prevent Microfiber Pollution

Microplastics, and specifically microfibers, have emerged as one of the hot-button water pollution issues of the 21st century. Although the scale of the problem is daunting, the scientific community and both the private and public sectors are beginning to take action.

Turns out, the solution to microplastics pollution may come down to everyday folks like us, and boaters can lead the charge.

Read this interesting overview of the issue by Northwest Yachting.

Millions of microfibers in wastewater from every wash

Amsterdam, 24 November 2017 – Between 600,000 and 17,700,000 microfibers are released in every 5-kilo wash; that is the equivalent of 0.43 to 1.27 grams in weight. Wastewater rinses these fibers during washing and most end up in the surface water, because water purification installations are not equipped to stop them. The fibers are extremely small and their numbers are endless. As a result, they enter the food chain relatively easily. This is one of the main conclusions of the European Mermaids Life+ project, whose results have now been published in the magazine Environmental Pollution.

Read the full article here.

Prince Charles’s new clothes have a synthetic look

October 26, 2017. Whether it is for his suits with wide lapels or professionally burnished burgundy brogues, Prince Charles has long been fêted by fashionistas from Burberry to Vogue as one of Britain’s most unlikely style icons.

Prince Charles has now shown concern in pollution of our oceans from synthetic clothing.

Read the full article from The Times.

Millions of microfibers in wastewater from every wash

Amsterdam, 24 November 2017 – Between 600,000 and 17,700,000 microfibers are released in every 5-kilo wash; that is the equivalent of 0.43 to 1.27 grams in weight. Wastewater rinses these fibers during washing and most end up in the surface water, because water purification installations are not equipped to stop them. The fibers are extremely small and their numbers are endless. As a result, they enter the food chain relatively easily. This is one of the main conclusions of the European Mermaids Life+ project, whose results have now been published in the magazine Environmental Pollution.

Read the full article here.

Fibres from synthetic clothing disastrous for mankind and the oceans

By machine washing our clothes, we are polluting our seas and oceans. This is the shocking result of years of scientific research, which will be presented during a press conference at the Conscious Hotel in Amsterdam tomorrow. It has been proven that fibres from synthetic clothing are not only found in water, but even in the food we eat and the air we breathe. An International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report published in February 2017 also claims that the use of synthetic fibres increased by 79.3% between 1992 and 2010.

Read the rest of the press release or download the final Mermaids Life+ reports.

November 4th 2016. Workshop European Project LIFE13 ENV/IT/001069 MERMAIDS – “Mitigation of microplastics impact caused by textile washing processes”

On November 4th 2016, at the headquarters of CNR ISMAC (Via Corti 12, Milan), a workshop entitled “Mitigation of Microplastics Impact Caused by textile washing processes” will be held. The objectives and the results achieved till now by LIFE13 ENV/IT/001069 MERMAIDS project, funded by the European Commission, will be presented.
The Life+ Mermaids project aims to investigate the content of microplastics in the washing effluents from synthetic clothing, lowering the release of particles through the application of suitable auxiliary or finishing. In the first phase of the project researchers have successfully addressed the problem of the qualitative and quantitative determination of the release of microplastics, identifying factors related to the characteristics of textile, detergents and washing conditions. Now the work is focused on the development of finishing treatments and washing conditions to limit the formation and release of microplastics.
Objectives of the project are also spreading the awareness of this emerging environmental problem, the development of guidelines for the textile industry and detergent producers and the development of good washing practices by providing a contribution to future European legislation. The workshop will be held in Italian. The final program will be available soon.

Microplastics in Great Lakes tributaries raise health concerns – October 11th 2016

ar-161019945Tiny pieces of broken drinking straws and small fibers shed from fleece jackets flow from rivers into the Great Lakes, where the microplastics have already shown up inside fish and might be making their way into humans’ drinking water. A recent study of 29 Great Lakes tributaries in six states found plastic particles in all 107 samples.

Our Clothes Are Poisoning Deep-Sea Animals With Microplastics – September 30th 2016

Scientists just found the first evidence that even deep-ocean creatures are consuming these plastics. In the new study, published in Scientific Reports, scientists found plastic microfibers inside hermit crabs, squat lobsters and sea cucumbers at depths of between 300 meters and 1,800 meters, collected from sites in both the mid-Atlantic and southwest Indian Ocean.

Read the article here.

More than 700,000 plastic fibers for every 6 kilos of laundry – September 27th 2016

plastic-and-sand-grain-thompsonUp to now there have been few studies on how great the loss of fibers is and under which circumstances the loss of fibers can be reduced. This involves washing at different temperatures, the use of different detergents and washing different sorts of synthetic fabrics, including synthetics combined with cotton. British researchers from the University of Plymouth have now answered these questions.

How your clothes are poisoning our oceans and food supply – June 20th 2016

In an alarming study released Monday, researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that, on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash. It also found that older jackets shed almost twice as many fibers as new jackets. The study was funded by outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia, a certified B Corp that also offers grants for environmental work.

Read the article here.

5 Ways To Support Sea Change for World Oceans Day – June 1st 2016

wasing machine

Photo: NOW Toronto

Among all the things consumers can do to support sea change, not buying and washing synthetic clothes is an easy one. Microfibers from synthetic clothes are polluting the oceans and NOW Toronto gives the consumers tips of what they can do to release less microfibers during laundry processes.

Read the article here.

Fish from fish markets contains plastic – May 21st 2016

About 25% of the seafood analyzed in two markets in Indonesia and California had plastic waste and microfibers in their guts. While all the fragments eaten by Indonesian fish were plastic, 80% of the garbage inside American fish consisted of fibers.

Read more about it here.

Microfibers are the most common type of microplastics in the ocean – March 15th 2016

The Australian ABC Catalyst explains the situation around microbeads, microfibers and plastic that is breaking down in the oceans. Although microbeads from rinse off cosmetics have received a lot of attention lately, the tiny plastics most often being found in our seafood is a different kind of synthetic. The team looks into marine life in the US and Australia, to find out what plastics escape our household drains and what kind of damage they can do.

Plastic poisoning our oceans? Study shows microbeads doing damage as well (microbeads and microplastics) – January 26th 2016

The Australian CBS12 News explained the issue of microbeads from personal care products and highlight that microfibers from synthetic fabrics are also clogging up the oceans.

Watch the video here.

El IEO y la Universidad de Vigo estudian el efecto de los ´microplásticos´ en la ría – January 18th 2016

Photo: Faro de Vigo

Photo: Faro de Vigo

The Spanish newspaper Faro de Vigo explains a research carried out by two institutions in Spain that analyze the effects of microfibers in marine organisms. They claim that they can alter their biological cycles and their endocrine system.

Read the article (in Spanish) here.

Australia’s big 3 supermarket chains pledge to phase out beauty products containing ‘microbeads’ – January 16th 2015

The Australian 7 News reported on the country’s big three supermarket chains that have pledged to phase out beauty products containing tiny plastic particles that are washing into our oceans and ending up in our food chain. They also remind the audience that microplastics are also found in synthetic fibres and encourage them to buy biodegradable wool and cotton instead.

Watch the video here.

Lavar su forro polar puede alterar la fertilidad de una ballena – January 14th, 2016 

Photo: El País

Photo: El País

The Spanish newspaper El País tackles the issue of microfiber pollution highlighting that synthetic clothing releases microfibers during laundry processes that end up in the ocean and form the most abundant plastic waste in the planet. They also address the effect of microplastic pollution in marine life.

Read the analysis (in Spanish) here.

Microfiber pollution endangers water – January 6th, 2016

It has been recently discovered that microfibers from washing machines are actually the biggest source of plastic pollution in the ocean. Legislatures are unwilling to deal with these emerging contaminants as there is a lag time between people discovering a problem and a governmental response.

Read the full analysis on microfiber pollution here.

Pan-European Consumer Survey on Sustainability and Washing Habits


Photo: AISE

Every 3 years, AISE commissions a pan-European survey on consumer habits. The objective of this exercise is to find out about consumers’ understanding and expectations linked to sustainability in general, but also to understand washing habits and their evolution in the domains of laundry and dishwashing practices.

See the infographic here.

What Comes Out in the Wash – November 28th, 2015

Mark Anthony Browne talks about microfibres in the New York Times. These tiny fibres, less than one millimiter wide, that come from our clothes when we wash them are one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution. They are almost invisible to the human eye but they can damage the lungs of humans and animals.

Read his article here.

Making-of the Life+ Mermaids video: Mermaids “Striptease”

mos etiquetasThe Plastic Soup Foundation headed to the beach in the North of the Netherlands to film the video Mermaids “Striptease” with the aim to raise awareness about the impact of washing synthetic clothing and the large amount of microfibres that are released from certain fabrics. A team of volunteer professionals was able to place two working washing machines in the middle of the beach.

Check out the photos here.

What can you do? 

After the first results of the Life+ Mermaids program, we suggest a list of recommendations about what can you do as a customer. Learn more about them here.

Life+ Mermaids Clip Release – November 21st, 2015

Just by doing the laundry we are all contributing to plastic pollution. The first results of the Life+ Mermaids research have proved that washing is a major source of plastic soup. The Plastic Soup Foundation has made a videoclip for Mermaids about this problem to make the world aware of the release of microfibers by doing your laundry.

Read more about it here.

Washing Your Clothes Puts Plastic in Your Fish – November 18th, 2015

Plastic microfibers were found in the guts of a quarter of fish caught off of Half Moon Bay in a recent study and 80 percent of the plastic found in fish is believed to come from the synthetic fabric found in nearly everything we wear these days.  The fabric in the fish, according to the researchers, ended up in the ocean thanks to our washing machines.

Read the article here.

Your Fleece Gear May Be Hazardous To Us All – October 21st, 2015

The Hartford Courant reviews the effects of washing a ployester fleece eventhough it comes from recycled plastic bottles. There’s an added concern. PCBs and other contaminants tend to stick to microfibers. For marine life, consuming plastic is bad enough; consuming plastic with toxins glued to it has to be worse. They also review brands that are addressing the issue and possible solutions to the problem: washing machine filters or capturing fibers at sewage treatment plants.

Read the complete article here.

The Laundroid is a Laundry-Folding Robot – October 8th, 2015


Photo: Kazumichi Moriyama

A group of Japanese tech companies and unveiled their forthcoming “Laundroid” machine this week at the 2015 Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) trade show in Japan.  This large, full-service laundry robot can reportedly wash, dry, sort and then fold your clothes perfectly based on what its AI determines each garment to be.

Read the article here.

Plastic trash, textile fibers found in seafood – September 30th, 2015

A team of scientists sampled 76 fish from Indonesian seafood markets and 64 from markets in California. About a quarter of those fish had either plastic fragments or textile fibers in their guts, meaning they could pass their misfortune back up the food chain to the species responsible for it. This report is one of the first to directly link man-made ocean trash to the seafood we eat.

Read the full article here.

Market fish contains plastic – September 24th, 2015

A quarter of the fish bought at local fish markets has plastic in their digestive tracts. Scientists concluded this from researching fish from fish markets in Indonesia and California, USA. The results were published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.plastic-debris-in-fish

To get a clear image of plastic pollution in fish meant for consumption, the scientists researched the stomachs of fish from different habitats: benthic fish, reef fish and pelagic fish. Both herbivores and carnivores were studied.

16 out of 64 fish from the Californian fish market (25%) was polluted. Most of the pollution (80%) consisted of fibers. The researchers could not be sure if the fibres were made from synthetic material (plastic) or natural materials like cotton.

From the Indonesian market, 21 out of 76 fish contained plastics. However, most of the plastics here were little fragments (60%) and plastic foam (37%), items that rarely occurred in Californian fish. In contrast to California, there were no fibers found in Indonesian fish.

The researchers emphasized the differences in wastewater management in both countries as possible explanation why there were no fibers found in Indonesian fish.

Microfibres and the Dark Sides of the Clothes We Wear – August 15th, 2015


Photo: Flickr

The journalist Michael Sainato writes on the Observer an opinion article about the implications of synthetic clothing and the emission of microfibres into the environment. Based on a study conducted in 2011, 60-85 percent of human-made material found on shorelines consists of micro fibers from clothing.

Read the article here.

The Damage I Cause When I Wash My Clothes – July 16th, 2015

The blogger from the site The Swatch Book reviews the effects of microfiber pollution from washing processes and explores the environmental effects of doing the laundry: microfibres in the sea, chemical pollution, carbon footprint, and water and energy wastage.

Read the post here.

New video from UNEP on marine litter – July 7th, 2015

A new video, released by UNEP, marine litter network, shows the problem of marine litter, including the problem of synthetic textiles that can release millions of tiny synthetic fibres into the washing water each laundry cycle. The possibility to filter these fibres out of the washing water with a special filter is also addressed.

Watch it here.

“Making clothes and shoes from ‘plastic soup’ is not a solution” – June 2015

Maria Westerbos, director of Plastic Soup Foundation, is quoted in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment “Making clothes and shoes from ‘plastic soup’ is not a solution” in response to Adidas’ initiative (with the group Parley For The Oceans) to use sea based plastics for their clothing and shoes.

Read the whole article by Jen Fela.

Critics warn recycling ocean plastic into clothes is not progressive – May 15th, 2015

cbc radio-canada

Photo: CBC/Radio-Canada

Pharrell Williams announced his involvement with a new project to try to help clean up the oceans by transforming plastic ocean debris into hip shoes and jeans. The music producer is the public face of the campaign run by Adidas and G-Star Raw. CBC/Radio-Canada reached different experts such as Marcus Eriksen, the director of research and co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, the marine ecologist Chelsea Rochman, and Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley For The Oceans.

Listen to the podcast.

Microplastics and microfibres. Making their way into our food chain – April 8th, 2015

Photo: The Manitoulin Expositor

The Manitoulin Expositor explains the problem of microfibres in the Great Lakes in the US and Dr. Sherri Mason’s findings. She found an average of 280,000 particles per square kilometre in Lake Ontario and 600,000 particles per square kilometre on average in Lake Erie, known as the most polluted of the Great Lakes, and only 5,000 pieces per sampled area in Lake Huron.

Read the full article here.


Simply doing the laundry is possibly the biggest source of plastic pollution – January 22nd, 2015

The Plastic Soup Foundation organises a European summit concerning alarming research. It is possible that clothing and washing machines contribute the most to the notorious “plastic soup” in our oceans. New research indicates that during each laundry cycle millions of tiny synthetic fibres are released into the washing water. Via the food-chain, these fibres eventually end up on our own plates. Thus we all unintentionally contribute to this rapidly increasing environmental problem.

Read the press release here.

Consortium wants to reduce clothing microfibers – January 22nd, 2015

A European research consortium wants to do something about the washing machine processes that release up to 200,000 fibers per wash. On the 22nd January 2015, the Mermaids project will be launched in De Industrieele Groote Club, in Amsterdam. One of the first things being studied is the different washing behaviors among the different European countries.

Read the article here.

From Spin to Sea: Polyester Microfibers Clog Our Beaches – November 13th, 2014


Photo: TriplePundit

The online website about sustainable issues TriplePundit explained Mark Anthony Browne’s study in microfibers and reviewed the impact of his research in the media. Thanks to ecologist Mark Browne, companies that use plastics like polyester in clothing are becoming aware that their ingenuity doesn’t necessarily ensure that plastic microfibers won’t end up polluting another part of the environment – the ocean, for example.

Read the article here.

Your clothes are polluting the ocean every time you do laundry – November 6th, 2014

The environmental website TreeHugger overviewed the issue of microfibers as well as Mark Browne’s work. An estimated 1,900 microfibers can get rinsed out of a single piece of synthetic clothing each time it’s washed, and these microplastic fibers might be the biggest contributors to ocean pollution.

Read the full article here.

Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of – October 27th, 2014

mark browne the guardian

Photo: The Guardian

The Guardian reviews Mark Browne’s research from 2011. Browne released an alarming study showing that tiny clothing fibers could be the biggest source of plastic in our oceans. In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing.

Read the full article here.

Are Your Clothes Shedding Plastic Into the Ocean? – April 30th, 2012

A research by Mark Browne explored whether synthetic fabric products (such as fleece) could be a potential source of microscopic plastic fibers in the ocean and on beaches. He found that one piece of clothing could yield nearly 2,000 plastic fibers in a single wash—which would wind up not only in the wastewater but eventually in the marine environment.

Read the full article here.

Laundry Lint Pollutes the World’s Oceans – October 21st, 2011

laundry 2011

Photo: Science Magazine

The Science magazine reported on the problem of polyester fibers floating away from fleece clothing. That synthetic lint likely makes its way through sewage treatment systems and into oceans around the world. The consequences of this widespread pollution are still hazy, but environmental scientists say the microscopic plastic fibers have the potential to harm marine life.

Read the full article here.