United Nations
Improve our understanding of microfibers with actionable steps to prevent them from becoming aquatic debris
by Trash Free Seas Alliance (Other relevant actor)
Microfibers have become one of the most common forms of plastic debris found in aquatic habitats. To address this emerging threat, Ocean Conservancy and its Trash Free Seas Alliance partners are launching a new science-based, solutions-oriented work stream comprised of scientists, NGOs and industry members across the supply chain (e.g., apparel, home appliance, etc.) that have a genuine desire to work together to investigate the problem, develop solutions, and test innovative methods to mitigate microfiber pollution.

Ocean Conservancy and our partners in the Alliance will commence this work at a workshop in 2017. Priority objectives for the workshop are to:
1. Seek common understanding on the state of the science on microfiber pollution with respect to sources, sinks and ecological and human health effects.
2. Develop, distribute and promote a consensus research agenda that addresses key research questions to relevant scientists, conservation organizations and industries to inform private sector leadership and action.
3. Brainstorm new and proposed solutions to reduce microfiber emissions and impacts in the environment.
4. Identify new collaborative work to close knowledge gaps and advance solution sets.

Microfibers have been reported in rain and aquatic habitats (both freshwater and marine) across the globe. In some cases, they are the most common type of marine debris found in habitats and inside animals, including in fish and shellfish purchased from public fish markets. Science confirms that laundering textiles is one important source of fiber emissions. Studies demonstrate that microfibers are released from clothing during washing and enter wastewater via washing machine effluent. One study estimates that a town of 100,000 people may emit an astonishing 9 110 kg of microfibers into aquatic habitats per day.

Ocean Conservancy and the Alliance propose a work stream that launches and brings together the drivers of new scientific research to improve our understanding of the sources, sinks and toxicity of microfibers and couple these insights with actionable steps to prevent microfibers from becoming aquatic debris. To kick off this work, the Alliance will host the 2-day workshop where participants will a) lay out the background of the issue, b) discuss potential solutions, c) propose future scientific tests and experiments and d) brainstorm how we, collectively, can merge science with innovation to prevent microfibers from escaping into the environment. Through a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach, we can work together to not just talk about the microfiber contamination issue, but actually begin to mitigate it.
Progress reports
January 2018
A multi-disciplinary working group actively researching sources, sinks, toxicity and efficacy of current mitigation technologies of microfiber pollution entering and in marine environments.
Financing (in USD)
100,000 USD
Staff / Technical expertise
Ecotoxicology expertise from University of Torontos Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to lead the research agenda developed by the working group.
Staff / Technical expertise
Trash Free Seas Alliance members' expertise in material science and potential solutions.
Basic information
Time-frame: December 2016 - January 2018
Trash Free Seas Alliance (NGO), Ocean Conservancy (NGO)
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Nicholas Mallos, Director, Trash Free Seas Program, Ocean Conservancy, nmallos@oceanconservancy.org, 202.351.0478
Washington DC, United States
Other SDGs
United Nations