Most people think plastic pollution in the ocean comes from large debris like bags, straws and cans. But pollution from plastic microfibers in clothing turns out to be one of the worst forms of plastic waste, according to a new report.
The groundbreaking California study indicated an estimated 4,000 metric tons – or 13.3 quadrillion fibers – were released into California’s natural environment in 2019, according to the Guardian.
The plastic fibers are less than 5 millimeters in length, and are shed when washing items like yoga pants, stretchy jeans or fleece jackets. The fibers then easily enter oceans and waterways.
“The findings were nothing short of shocking,” said Alexis Jackson, fisheries project director at the Nature Conservancy in California, which commissioned the study from a research team at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Microfibers are so small they show up in everything from plants to plankton, the Guardian said. A reported 73 percent of fish caught at mid-ocean depths in the Atlantic had microplastic in their stomachs.