By Brother Ryan W. Roberts, OLF, Institute Justice Team
In the process of inviting people to order our new Mercy Justice polyester fleece jackets, we’ve received some questions about their environmental impact.
Microplastics are an unfortunate side effect of all plastics, not just microfibers like fleece. Microfibers like polyester threads slowly shed tiny plastic fragments through normal use, but the shedding increases dramatically during vigorous rubbing like in a washing machine and will end up polluting our water systems and greater environment.
There are advantages to polyester fleece, including water-repellant qualities and weight-to-warmth ratio. The plastic used in the Justice jackets comes from recycled water bottles. This is much better for the environment as the plastic is being reused rather than taking up space in a landfill or floating away in the ocean. A tag attached to each jacket tells us how many water bottles went into its production.
Wash your fleece infrequently. Spot cleaning is all that’s really necessary most of the time because usually it’s apparel that doesn’t directly touch skin.
The way it’s washed also makes a difference, e.g. vigorous agitation like a top-loading machine will break the fibers much more than immersion in a front-load machine or washing by hand. There are devices you can use in the washing machine or attach to your drain line that capture microplastics, preventing their direct draining into the water supply. Here’s a New York Times article with a lot of information.