Synthetic fleece is warm and cozy, but you don’t want to eat it for dinner. The material is made up of soft plastic fibers, and thousands of microscopic particles tear away from these fibers through regular wear and tear. With every wash, for example, water runoff carries away some of the fibers, depositing them into the ocean, where fish consume them, Ives explains. Each wash of a fleece jacket can release up to 2 grams of microfibers.
But even simpler than that, the particles can separate from the fabric while you’re wearing it and end up in the air as dust. There’s no way to stop this process—the only way to avoid microfiber pollution and consumption is to opt for natural fabrics like wool, cotton and linen.
How to Help: If you do happen to own fleece, wear and wash it less. “When you do have to wash it use cold water [it’s less likely to dislodge the microfibers] and consider investing in a washing machine lint filter to keep the particles out of runoff,” recommends Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale.