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Focus on microfibers ocean polluters at Zero Waste conference in Vancouver

The global textile industry is one biggest polluter and needs to focus on recycling and reducing the amount of clothing that finds its way into landfills and oceans, a Zero Waste conference sponsored by Metro Vancouver focused on this. To keep up with the latest fashion trends, today’s consumers buy clothes more often than they used to, and they don’t keep them long enough. The industry also has a large environmental footprint, extending from water use to sourcing materials to production and distribution. Microfibers from clothing are also finding their way into the ocean, posing a threat to marine life. As many as 2,000 fibers from fleece and polyester fabrics are released during a single washing cycle. Almost all of those find their way through municipal sewage systems to the ocean.

Microplastics can be ingested by plankton, invertebrates and other marine life forming the base of the food chain. Ingestion of plastics may also make organisms think they are full, causing them to starve. There are on an average more than 3,000 particles of plastic in one cubic meter of sea water in the Strait of Georgia.

The textile industry needs a major rethink on design, some entrepreneurial innovators who are going to look at how clothes are made, how they can be more efficient to create clothes that are more durable and don’t just end up in the landfill, and can have secondary and tertiary uses. The mixing of natural materials (such as cotton) with synthetics (such as polyester) creates added problems.