By Madhiha Taseen
Recently, The Story of Stuff released a video concerning microfibers in our clothing. Microfibers are the term used for the tiny bits of plastic that make up our synthetic clothing. Essentially, these bits are posing a threatening issue as they are washed and released by the billions into bodies of water. It is often too small to be trapped by water treatment plants. They are sent into rivers, lakes, and oceans where they permanently remain for fish to easily ingest. Worst of all, the particles will soak up the pollutants around them making their way into the bellies of fish, and finally ours.
According to the video, more than 60% of clothing contains synthetic fabrics and still growing. There are several solutions being made to address this issue including new washing machines to include a filter and to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities. Both these solutions would require heavier financial resources – from consumer pockets no less. As for the consumer, there are also ways to reduce the risk at a personal level, primarily by washing less frequently that would reduce water consumption and friction, which in turn reduces the release of micro fibers. A Guppy Friend may also become a good barrier for already existing synthetic clothing. Of course, this is in conjunction to the most obvious solution: to minimize or stop purchasing synthetic clothing altogether.
Humans have become increasingly skilled in fulfilling their needs by using science and technology. However, the environment and use of renewable sources have taken a back seat. Islam endorses technological progress to uplift humanity and harmony with environment. From an Islamic point of view, activities in pursuit of progress are an inevitable component of life. However, these activities should not be carried out arbitrarily as the Qur’an detests waste and destruction. Therefore, Muslims should try to purchase sustainable fabrics whenever possible over synthetics. This will allow room for much needed innovation, such as the upcoming Hijab Pro that is made with Nike’s most breathable fabric – a lightweight polyester.
It may be fair to state that it should be the producer’s responsibility to deal with the impact their products make on the environment. But microfiber pollution has been known for at least five years and many companies chose to ignore the issue. Muslims should understand that Islam has always stressed environmental protection and that it should naturally find its way into business practices. Islamic start-ups and established companies should be aware of the environmental aspects and impacts they make throughout their value chain. They should seek sustainable alternatives when sourcing materials and include their material components under any product listed online. Finally, it is in the hands of consumers to further support these changes by determining where they should put their money.
As the Islamic Fashion Industry grows its presence, it will become increasingly important to make these changes to better define what this industry stands for. There is a Hadith where removing harmful items from their path is considered an act of charity (Sadaqah). This could broadly be applied to the harm microfibers are presenting in the waters. By merely reducing synthetic purchases, it may provide a spiritual benefit to any individual willing to take those steps.