Summary of evidence on textile-derived microfibre

19th December 2019

These reports examine the current literature on microfibres: estimating the scale of microfibre formation and shedding; reviewing current mitigation actions; and identifying key evidence gaps in studies conducted so far. 

There are major data gaps in quantifying where microfibres go when they are not captured; and what impact they have on the environment
Over 70kt of the mass loss occurs during processing to fibre, spinning and winding, and weaving and knitting
Laundry contributes a relatively low tonnage of fibre loss, but the likelihood of entering the marine environment is higher

Overview

The evidence on textile-derived microfibres shows that 170,000 tonnes may be lost during processing and production; 1,300 tonnes during domestic machine washing and tumble drying; and over 350,000 tonnes are sent to residual waste at end of life. 

However, it is unclear what proportion of these are microfibres, since the losses reported are the total mass which can include other waste products, intermediates, long fibres or textile offcuts.

More research needs to be done to determine the quantity of textiles-derived microfibres, to enable businesses and governments to focus efforts on the most critical factors for microfibre release into the environment, and the most effective mitigation methods.