What You Need to Know About Microfiber

We have a plastic problem

It’s the #1 go-to material for a multitude of products. Our lives are filled with plastic in our homes, workplaces, and in the activities we do. In the past 30 years, production of plastics has outpaced that of cement, steel, aluminum, and glass but this comes at a steep cost to our environment.

  • By 2050 there will be 12 billion tons of plastic in landfills
  • By weight, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish
  • Microplastics is a petrochemical that does not biodegrade

When you think of discarded plastics, bags and bottles might come to mind first. But there’s another antagonist in the ocean plastic saga – microfibers. 

What is Microfiber?

What’s the deal with microfiber anyway? It’s used in pretty much everything we use daily from outdoor apparel, upholstery, and cleaning cloths. It’s also used in insulation. 

Microfiber is made of plastic, a petroleum based product, and the threads are thinner than a strand of silk. That’s about ⅕ the thickness of a human hair. While that means microfiber has plenty of good qualities – lightweight, soft, water repellant and absorbent – there is reason to take another look. 

The biggest concern with microfiber is how it ends up in our water. It’s non-biodegradable and has been found in our rivers, lakes, and oceans, carried by wastewater. All those tiny microplastics add up. They’ve been found inside fish and ocean mammals and have made it into our food supply. It’s a huge environmental concern and GoLite is doing its part to take on this problem.     

Microfiber definition 

“Plastic microfiber” means a small synthetic particle that is fibrous in shape, less than 5 millimeters in length, released into water through the regular washing of textiles made from synthetic material. Currently, the accepted size of less than 5mm  in any direction was determined by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

NOAA, AATCC Draft Standard The European Commission (EC)

What is GoLite doing?

GoLite is a leader in sustainability in the outdoor industry. We create garments made from recycled bottles, removing them from the trash stream and keeping them out of our oceans. GoLite products are developed from meticulously researched, environmentally preferred, and low energy production materials and methods. 

We are committed to using post consumer plastic to create sustainable fabrics and microfiber clothing. Volunteers sort the plastic and our partners allow us to manufacture performance wear that lasts.  Even our packaging and labels are made from recycled materials and either recyclable or compostable.

GoLite avoids all fleeces and only use high quality microfibers that are less likely to shed. We take our responsibility seriously and are constantly searching for innovations to keep harmful materials out of our oceans. 

What can you do?

All of us play an important part in protecting our environment. You can step up by staying informed on the impact of plastics and taking some easy steps as a consumer. Here are a few tips:

  • Steer clear of acrylic and heavily brushed fleece fabrics
  • Buy high-quality, synthetic apparel from trusted brands. 
  • Use cooler water temps and liquid detergents in front loading machines, if possible
  • Catch fibers by using fine mesh bags and fiber catching filters

What the Outdoor Industry is doing:

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and the European Outdoor Group (EOG), collectively representing over 1500 companies, recognize the outdoor industry’s potential contribution to microfiber pollution. GoLite is proud to be a part of this collective. 

The global outdoor industry has collaboratively created a shared “cross-industry roadmap” to coordinate its actions on the microfiber shedding challenge, including its work with research and academic partners to gather the data needed to make more informed decisions about the fabrics and fibers being used to make products.

You can take a deep dive into the subject – it’s fascinating and helps you stay well informed – by visiting the Outdoor Industry Association