Microfibres: how Alpkit is helping understand the use of plastic in our clothing

By Hati Whiteley

We believe that by collaborating with others, we can find solutions to problems like microfibres that quite frankly aren't available were we to work in isolation.

That's why we're delighted to be part of The Microfibre Consortium. This project is led by Sophie Mather and The University of Leeds to research which fabrics are shedding microfibres, why they’re shedding, and how much is being shed.

We had a chat with Ronnie Legg, our lead apparel designer, to find out more.

What are microfibres?

Microfibres are tiny strands that make up textiles. When we say tiny, we mean tiny – a fifth of the width of human hair. They are found in clothing, weaves and knits, fishing nets, mats, car interiors… pretty much everywhere.

What is the issue?

They may be microscopic, but microfibres are posing a huge threat to the environment. Every time we put textiles in the wash, they shed microfibres which find their way into the ocean. Whilst natural microfibres (such as those in merino wool) are biodegradable, synthetic microfibres are persistent, harming birds and marine life who ingest them, and causing an accumulation of harmful chemicals in the food chain.

Why should we care?

In the grand scheme of the issue, the outdoor industry is small fry compared to the rest of the clothing industry. We know that there is an environmental cost to every article we produce, and we’re passionate about wild and natural places; someone needs to support this the campaign, why not us?

What is Alpkit doing?

We understand how the garments we make impact the oceans we love, what we want to understand is how to reduce this impact.

To help to fulfil these goals, we have donated fabric samples and specs to the research project overseen by the University of Leeds and Sophie Mather. The research is beginning with fundamental questions about microfibres, such as:

  • How much microfibre shedding are we producing?

  • How are the fibres being shed?

  • What fabric types could be the key offenders?

The hope is that thanks to this research, we will eventually we’ll be in a position to select fibres and fabrics that are less harmful to our oceans and marine life.

What can everyone do?

By getting into the following laundering habits, we can both reduce the number of microfibres shed from our clothes as well as extending their useable life: it’s a win-win really. These tips are also based on scientific research (just in case you were wondering):

  • Wash less, wash less, and wash less!
  • When you do wash garments, use a cold and quick cycle,
  • Use liquid detergent instead of powder,
  • Wash full loads, not half loads.

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