Norrøna is concerned about the issues plastic microfibers pose to marine environments (and also in fertilized fields due to use of sludge from water treatment plants), and we acknowledge that the washing of garments made of synthetic fibers is a contributor to this issue. We are also working to find a good short term and long term solutions to this issue. Studies have revealed when washing garments made from synthetic fibers plastic microfibers are released, or shed. These fibers are smaller than 5 mm in length, and many of them are not captured in water treatment plans and they find their way into the oceans where they harm marine wildlife. Research done in Norway suggest that the washing of synthetic garments is the fifth largest contributor to these emissions with 110 tons per year (wear and tear of car tires is the biggest with 2250 metric tons every year in Norway, paint for boats and ships is second (650 metric tons), and plastic production is third (400 metric tons). You can read about the Norwegian Environment Agency, its research project and its findings here.
Our fleece garments are one source of these microfibers, but we also know that premium, high-end fleece products, such as Norrøna's, release far less microfibers than low-quality fleece garments (read more about this research). But this is no excuse, and we are working to find solutions to this issue. We are working with the German non-profit Guppy Friend, and sell their washing bags without profit as we found it traps the plastic within the bag. After washing you should remove the plastic fibers and recycle with the rest of your plastic. This represents a short-term solution where you can wash several of your garments in a washing bags that captures most of the microfibers shed when washing. Another good advice is to use front loading washing machines as they reduce the shedding of microfibers (read more about this research).
Norrøna has also contributed to, and is a member of, the Microfiber Consortium started by the European Outdoor Group and Leeds University. This consortium will consider key questions regarding microfibers, and contribute with more research on how to solve this issue. Read more here.
From a long-term standpoint, we will work with our fabric suppliers to make more durable fabrics, and consider alternative and new construction. Norrøna also has a large collection of wool garments, both baselayer and insulation layers, and wool is a natural fiber that should be far less harmful if it finds its way to the ocean.