When you hear “plastic” pollution, you might picture six-pack rings wrapped around seagulls or beaches littered with plastic bottles. But now, researchers are discovering a new menace — microfibers. They’re tiny strands of synthetic fibers…

Most microfiber pollution comes from the synthetic clothing that many of us LOVE to wear — think fleece jackets and yoga pants. But this comfort and fashion has a cost. Each time synthetic fabrics are washed, those tiny microfibers shed. Washing a typical polyester fleece can release thousands of microfibers that can travel from the washing machine to the local water treatment plant, where they can slip by filters and enter rivers, lakes, and oceans. And from there, fish and other marine life are eating the microfibers, which may leach harmful toxins.

How do we reduce the microfibers that are finding their way into our environment? Above the Noise host Shirin Ghaffary explains the microplastics pollution problem and offers some potential solutions—materials that don’t shed, better filtering systems, and even methane-eating bacteria that produce biodegradable bio-polyester fibers—for fixing it.

Related videos: Turning plastic bottles into football jerseys, Ocean Confetti, the challenge of micro-plastics, and Gyrecraft – Transforming sea plastics into valuable objects.

Plus: Don’t wash your jeans, making a new felted kimono coat from recycled sweaters, and SciFri’s The Fungi in Your Future.

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