Microplastic pollution has emerged as one of the most critical global challenges of our time. It is estimated that 12.2 million tonnes of plastic enter the global marine environment each year. Of this, 3.2 million tonnes are estimated to be primary microplastics, particles less than 5mm in size released directly into the environment. Major sources of primary microplastics are road abrasion of synthetic tyres and the shedding of fibres during washing of textiles such as nylon, acrylic and polyester. The full impact on marine ecosystems are not yet known, but the risk to the environment and potentially to human health through drinking water and eating seafood is a significant concern.

One proposed strategy against the problem is to increase the use of natural fibres, such as wool and cotton, but there is no data on microfibres of natural origin. Two independent sources not specifically related to research on microfibres, provide some confidence that fibres shed during washing of wool clothing are unlikely to contribute to persistent pollution as do those from synthetic clothing. Click here to read more about this research.International Wool Textile Organisation