Why microfibre fails to earn our green tick
Microfibre has become hugely popular – it’s being used for cleaning cloths, washcloths, shammys, hair wraps and towels. It’s so popular, and reusable, that we’ve received requests to make eco-microfibre cloths. Is that possible? Let’s take a closer look at what makes microfibre so versatile and whether or not it can be given the green tick...
First of all – what’s it made from? Microfibre is a synthetic fabric. Unlike cotton or bamboo, which are natural fibres, microfibre is made up of man-made, chemically produced materials – usually a polyester-nylon blend.
We took a closer look at a typical microfibre cleaning cloth and found that it was made from 80% polyester and 20% polyamide (that’s the nylon part). This composition has our earth-loving heckles up. These synthetic textiles are made of petroleum-based plastic polymers and they raise deep environmental concerns.
Not only is the production of microfibre increasing our consumption of fossil fuels, but making polyamide releases nitrous oxide (N2O) into the atmosphere as a by-product. Nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to ozone destruction and is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2). And it requires large quantities of water to boot (according to the World Bank, the textile industry is responsible for 17-20% of the world's wastewater).
Ok, so it’s resource-heavy, non-renewable, and actively destroying the ozone - not sounding good so far! So we considered the human element.
Unfortunately, its manufacture also has negative impacts on human health. Workers are exposed to dust and fumes, which irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. And the consequences don’t end there. As polyamide breaks down, it releases toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases into the environment.
Which brings us to how the material behaves at the end of its useful life. It isn't biodegradable or compostable. In fact, it’s likely to takes hundreds of years to decompose. Worse yet, it contributes to microplastics pollution.
As it breaks down, plastic microfibres are released into the environment polluting food chains, killing wildlife, and ultimately endangering human health. These plastic microfibers are consumed by fish and birds and end up in our food, lungs, and stomachs. Yuk!
The properties of the material promise a good reusable solution. But it’s a false promise. Although the fabric is undeniably versatile and the fibres are super-fine making it extremely lightweight and absorbent, in our opinion the costs outweigh the benefit. We will not be offering Ecopack products made from microfibres as they are simply too damaging to people and planet.
But we can offer a good eco-friendly alternative. Our research showed cellulosic fibre to be the best alternative – and that’s exactly what our existing Bamboo Cloths are made from.
Read more about microfibre:
Check out our bamboo cloth alternatives: https://ecobags.co.nz/collections/food-storage/products/ed-1007-multi-purpose-bamboo-cloths