Microplastics are a prolific and persistent contaminant, with potential environmental and economic risks. Microplastics include synthetic plastic particulates, fibres and films with diameters down to 1 micron. It is estimated that about 80% of microplastics found in coastal waters and up to 98.5% in beach sediment are microfibres.
Microfibres can come from items such as synthetic clothing. When washed, the micro particles end up in our waterways.
Our research estimates there are 14 million tonnes of microplastics on the seafloor.
Most of the solutions proposed so far to reduce microfibre pollution focus on the downstream removal of microplastics, rather than eliminating or/reducing fibre shedding from textiles, one of the main sources of microfibre entering the environment.
To fill this gap, we are looking at ways to improve textiles to prevent microfibre shedding by looking at upstream solutions.
Strategies being investigated include increasing fibre security in textile structures and reducing fibres protruding from the structures. This will help engineer products and processes to significantly reduce fibre shedding rates and decrease the level of microfibres discharged to our environment.