Polyester Maybe Isn’t the Greatest Thing: Polyester Microfiber Legislation

There is a bill currently in the CA legislature on the topic of polyester microfibers. They have proposed legislation mandating by 2020 that garments with 50% or more polyester or other synthetic fiber warn you to wash them by hand and not wash them by machine.

This is on the heels of studies indicating that the combination of polyester and washing machines is particularly damaging to the environment and that microfibers are pervasive and harmful to aquatic life in and around the US. You can read about it in this Patagonia article  or this article in the Guardian.

You can see a copy of the bill here.

and here it is:

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


(a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1) Microfiber is a subcategory of microplastic that is shed from synthetic fabric when that fabric is washed.
(2) These small, nondegradable fibers that are less than 5 millimeters in length are a major category of plastic pollution in water, pose a serious threat to the environment, and have been found within fish and shellfish that are consumed by humans.
(3) Garments made from synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, can shed up to 1,900 microfibers per wash.
(4) Polyester is the most widely used fiber in the textiles industry and accounts for about 50 percent of the total fiber market.
(5) Effluent from washing machines and wastewater treatment plants is a significant source of microfiber pollution that enters waterways and the ocean.
(b) It is therefore the intent of the Legislature to do both of the following:
(1) Recognize the emerging threat that microfibers pose to the environment and water quality and provide information to the general public about the sources of microfiber pollution.
(2) Reduce the amount of microfiber that enters the environment and is subsequently consumed by wildlife.

SEC. 2.

Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 42368) is added to Part 3 of Division 30 of the Public Resources Code, to read:

CHAPTER  6. Microfiber Pollution Education and Reduction

For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:

(a) “Clothing” means an article of apparel intended to be worn by a person, not including hats or shoes.
(b) “Plastic microfiber” means a small polyester particle that is fibrous in shape, less than 5 millimeters in length, and is released into water through the regular washing of polyester-based textiles.

(a) Clothing made from fabric that is more than 50 percent polyester shall bear a conspicuous label that states: “This garment sheds plastic microfibers when washed. Hand washing recommended.”

(b) On and after January 1, 2020, a person shall not sell or offer for sale clothing made from fabric that is more than 50 percent polyester, unless the clothing is labeled in accordance with this section.

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