Photo by Caleb George/Unsplash

G-Star Raw, the Dutch fashion label co-owned by “Happy” hitmaker Pharrell Williams, has teamed up with the Plastic Soup Foundation to challenge the appliance and textiles industries to help clean up fashion’s act. The washing machine’s toll on the environment, it would appear, is far greater than previously thought, although the problem has little to do with energy-efficiency standards and everything with “microplastic” pollution, a blanket term that refers to the millions of tiny filaments shed by synthetic garments every time they’re washed. Too small for wastewater filters to trap, the acrylic, polyester, and nylon fibers slip out to sea, eventually entering the food chain after fish and other marine animals mistake them for plankton. But that’s not even the worst of it. The World Economic Forum estimates that in just 35 years, the amount of plastic trash in the ocean will outweigh all the fish.


“Leading European research recently showed that a fleece releases an incredible 1 million microfibers every time it is washed,” Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation, said in a statement. “If you imagine that every day a couple of billion people around the world wash their clothing and that almost every item of clothing contains plastic nowadays, you can easily see why it is imperative to deal with this cause of the plastic soup immediately.”

Both the Plastic Soup Foundation and G-Star Raw are calling on other apparel brands and retailers, textile producers, and washing-machine manufacturers to support the Ocean Clean Wash, a €1.3 million initiative to innovate solutions to mitigate the release of plastic fibers from clothing, whether by creating better washing-machine filters or environmentally friendly treatments that keep clothes from shedding.

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Signatories of the charter must pledge to “actively contribute” resources to the development and implementation of any short-term and long-term solutions, as well as test—and transparently report about—the release of plastic microfibers from their own synthetic garments.

They’re also required to back a “worldwide innovation challenge,” spearheaded by Spain’s Leitat Technological Center, the project’s technical advisor, to suss out feasible solutions to the problem.

As the pioneer of a line of jeans made from ocean waste, G-Star Raw is certainly no stranger to battling plastic pollution.

“With Raw for the Oceans, we were the first to make denim from recycled ocean plastic, and we are now starting to completely replace the 10 percent conventional polyester in our collection with recycled plastic,” said Frouke Bruinsma, corporate responsibility director at G-Star Raw. “We want to continue to create progress through sustainable innovation and join forces with the Plastic Soup Foundation to battle the microfiber problem. Only a strong alliance of dedicated stakeholders around the world can turn the tide. Everyone is welcome to join us.”

+ Ocean Clean Wash

+ G-Star Raw

+ Plastic Soup Foundation