Microfibers Environmental and safety issues
Microfiber textiles tend to be flammable if manufactured from hydrocarbons (polyester) or carbohydrates (cellulose) and emit toxic gases when burning, more so if aromatic (PET, PS, ABS) or treated with halogenated flame retardants and azo dyes. Their polyester and nylon stock are made from petrochemicals, which are not a renewable resource and are not biodegradable. However, if made out of polypropylene, they are recyclable (Prolen).
For most cleaning applications they are designed for repeated use rather than being discarded after use. An exception to this is the precise cleaning of optical components where a wet cloth is drawn once across the object and must not be used again as the debris collected and now embedded in the cloth may scratch the optical surface.
Microfiber that is made from petrochemicals includes polyester and nylon which are not biodegradable. However, microfiber made from polypropylene can be recyclable. Microfiber products may also have the potential of entering the oceanic water supply and food chain similar to other microplastics. synthetic leather wholesale clothing made of microfibers that are washed can release materials and travel to local wastewater treatment plants, contributing to plastic pollution in water.
There are environmental concerns about this product entering the oceanic food chain similar to other microplastics. A study by the clothing brand Patagonia and University of California, Santa Barbara, found that when synthetic jackets made of microfibers are washed, on average 1.7 grams (0.060 oz) of microfibers are released from the washing machine. These microfibers then travel to local wastewater treatment plants, where up to 40% of them enter into rivers, lakes, and oceans where they contribute to the overall plastic pollution. Microfibers account for 85% of man-made debris found on shorelines worldwide.
However, no pesticides are used for producing synthetic fibers (in comparison to cotton). If these products are made of polypropylene yarn, the yarn is dope-dyed; i.e. no water is used for dyeing (as with cotton, where thousands of liters of water become contaminated.