Flaws in fast fashion

Shoppers need to be wary of the cycle of buying and discarding clothing quickly

From the tops of the Himalayas and swamps in the Amazon, to the deepest trench in the ocean and ice in the Arctic– microfibers have been identified on every part of Earth. Microfibers are a miniscule form of microplastics, naked to the human eye. The small, yet toxic plastics have polluted the environment, burgeoning to the point of disaster. One of the largest causes of microfiber pollution throughout the planet are textiles manufactured out of synthetic materials, which are commonly used by the fashion industry. The cycle of buying clothes and discarding them at a fast pace, also referred to as fast fashion, has also been an attribute to the problem of microfibers. Frequent shoppers participating in fast fashion need to slow their pace, or stop buying unnecessary garments completely. Although their products are cheap and affordable, the low-quality materials used to produce them release a form of microplastic into the air, called microfibers. These microscopic pieces of plastic pollute bodies of water and have severe effects on both humans and animals.

Synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic, are repeatedly used by fashion industries because of their wide abundance and affordability. Nevertheless, polyester has dominated the textile industry because it is less costly compared to other raw materials, making it pragmatic for businesses to use. . Garments created with high percentages of polyester release harmful microfibers into the environment through abrasion, specifically when the products are washed or worn. The largest contributors to microfiber pollution are Zara and H&M, two popular stores notorious for their outrageous usage of polyester in their products. The Plastic Soup Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising awareness regarding microfibers, evaluated a study that revealed a product consisting of 65% polyester from H&M unleashed 48.6 mg/kg of microfibers per wash. Over three-fourths of the clothing produced by fashion companies consists of polyester, albeit it’s damaging characteristics[/pullquote] The same study proved that a Zara top made with 100% polyester lost 307.6 mg/kg of microfibers every wash (Synthetic). Washing clothes containing unreasonable ratios of polyester contaminates the laundry water used. Discarded after each wash, the tainted water travels into rivers and streams, polluting the environment. This heavily repeated cycle has lasting effects on aquatic water life.

Over three-fourths of the clothing produced by fashion companies consists of polyester, albeit it’s damaging characteristics

— Kyra Schoenfelder

The continuation of buying and washing polyester-made garments from fashion industries dumps millions of plastic fibers into rivers and oceans. Infamous for its ongoing pollution issues, the Hudson River alone “carries around 150 million plastic microfibers into the Atlantic ocean every day” (Synthetic). Inevitably, both saltwater and freshwater wildlife readily consume excessive quantities of microfibers through their diet. The American Chemical Society (ACS) released a research publication, asserting that “fibers are the most prominent plastic type reported in the guts of marine organisms” (Ingestion). These toxic microfibers have negatively impacted the lives of the organisms who have ingested them. In a scientific study performed on crabs, the ACS concluded that when the species received food contaminated with microfibers, the crabs’ overall behavior was altered, as they displayed a significant decrease in regular food consumption, as well as a substantial depletion in “energy available for growth” (Ingestion).  But the problem with microfibers continues, as they have been discovered in humans, including the food we consume.

Polyester-induced microfibers that are being released into the environment from synthetic textiles are frequently being uncovered in humans and every day food. Scientists have confirmed forms of microplastics have been detected in mussels, fish, sea salt, oysters, chicken, beer, and honey. Fibers have also been identified in both tap and bottled water (Synthetic). The intake of microfibers unknowingly can have numerous, detrimental effects on human health. Individuals who have consumed plastic through food or water have experienced damaged organs, reproductive problems, asthma attacks, and inflammation. Microfibers can also institute long term health effects such as an increased risk of cancer and DNA damage (Synthetic).

Popular for its vast availability and costliness, polyester has the capability to release harmful microfibers into bodies of water, affecting both humans and animals. Unfortunately, despite the disastrous effects, businesses will only continue to use polyester in their products because it is convenient for their budget and production costs. The issue of microfiber pollution is intensifying, and action must be taken before the problem becomes eternal. It is significant that consumers slow their pace of buying clothing products to prevent high amounts of microfibers from being lost due to washing and wearing textiles. After all, the health of humans and animals is far more important than keeping up with the latest fashion trend.



Works Cited


“Synthetic Clothes Pollution: What Does Science Say?” Ocean Clean Wash, 2 Oct. 2019, www.oceancleanwash.org/science/.

“Ingestion of Plastic Microfibers by the Crab Carcinus maenas and Its Effect on Food Consumption and Energy Balance” The American Chemical Society, 3 November 2015,