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An Insight to the Marine microfiber pollution

By Sayan Basak posted 01-19-2020 23:31


For the anthropogenic pollutants, oceans turn out to be the final destination. In this context, microfibers that are disposed of from synthetic garments and apparel products add up to make this problem even worse. Various human accounts lead to the percolation of these microfibers in the river biome, which ultimately makes their way to the oceans.

A research carried out by Miller and his team in the year 2017 claimed that approximately 121,465 acrylic, 82,672 polyester, and 22,992 poly-cotton microfibers are disposed to oceans on a single laundry wash. The research further investigated that around 64,000 pounds of microfibers are released into the ocean in a single day, out of which 35% is because of the synthetic textiles. The microfibers travel from the domestic waste stream to the nearby water treatment plants, from which around 50% of the microfibers make their journey to the oceanic bodies.

These microfibre waste, although comprising nearly 85% of the shoreline human waste debris, are also found in the freshwater system worldwide.  The Atlantic Ocean witnesses more than 150 million microfibers every day, and the Hudson River solely dumps 300 million synthetic fibers annually. Quantification has also been done for the Indian Ocean, which reported to have 4 billions of microfibers per square kilometers. Furthermore, the reports also suggested that the content of microfibers has alarmingly increased from 15 to 311 million tons for the past five decades.

The following pie chart describes the Percentage of tap water samples present in contaminated with microfibers.

Microfiber aided oceanic pollution has acknowledged escalating consideration of microfibers as a significant aspect of marine pollution.  Ingredients' originating from textile industries, domestic waste channel, and degradation of plastic waste allows approximately 5 million metric tonnes of microfibers to seep into the oceans every day. Although, since the 1950s, the textile industries evolve at a rate of 9% annually with a $700 billion global market, the waste management system has been working miserably. 

Featured image via Sancroft

Pieces of literature say that approximately 5 trillion microfiber particles float in marine surface waters. Although a few percentages of waste originates from marine sources, more than 80% of the pollutants generates from terrestrial sources. Despite the growing concern over the large quantity, distribution, and deadly effects of microfiber contamination in the ocean, the detrimental effect posed by it remains doubtful. The budding scientists should focus equally on the waste management system by developing novel techniques and unique solutions as they do in synthesizing new methods to fabricate microfibers.