Tell Nike to Stop Polluting Our Waters

Target: Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer for Nike

Goal: End the use of harmful petroplastic fibers in clothing production.

With oil production rising ever higher to meet global demand, petrochemical refiners find themselves left with more and more byproducts. One way to make use of these leftovers is to turn them into synthetic fibers for the apparel industry, a practice rife with issues upon digging into the details. In one of the most pressing problems of our generation, these synthetic fibers are making their way into our waterways and oceans, soaking up pollutants which threaten to poison aquatic animals and us. By writing to Nike, one of the world’s largest apparel producers, we hope to send a message that this form of corporate pollution has not gone unnoticed, and in the event they maintain their unsustainable status quo, it will not go unpunished.

When people wash clothing made from synthetic fibers, little strands called microfibers wash off and make their way through water treatment plants which are unable to filter all the tiny plastics. According to a study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a single synthetic fleece jacket releases an average of 1.7 grams of microfibers during each wash, with older jackets releasing nearly twice as much as new ones. When these microfibers end up in aquatic ecosystems, they absorb pollutants from sources like pesticides and motor oil, and ultimately end up in the stomachs of fish and other aquatic animals. From there, a process called biomagnification occurs, whereby toxins are concentrated in larger fish that eat many smaller fish. And since humans like to eat big fish, we’re in danger of being poisoned too – studies have already found stomachs lined with microfibers in fish that humans eat every day.

However, all hope isn’t lost. By switching to natural fibers that can break down before they harm aquatic ecosystems, apparel manufacturers can prevent this microfiber pollution problem from getting worse.  Today, we are asking Nike to commit to eliminating its use of synthetic fibers in its clothing and find ways to reduce microfiber pollution from what it has already sold in the meantime. In doing so, it can serve as a good example for other clothing producers to follow, helping to protect our planet for future generations of people and animals.


Dear Ms. Jones,

For decades, Nike has produced sportswear and apparel from synthetic fibers, a practice which helps to cut costs and meet the great physical demands of consumers. However, in recent years, it has become apparent that these petroleum-based fibers have a dark side, and for all the convenience they may provide, these materials are hurting environments and people around the world. I am writing to you today to ask you to work to eliminate Nike’s use of these plastic fibers and reduce the impact of its clothing containing them in your capacity as the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

When clothing made with synthetic fiber is washed, it breaks down a little bit, sending thousands of tiny threads called microfibers into the wastewater system. Unfortunately, most water treatment plants are unable to filter out these fibers, which then end up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans.  There, they soak up pollutants like pesticides and motor oil and are eaten by fish and other aquatic organisms.  As these animals are eaten by bigger ones, the pollutants concentrate in the bodies of organisms higher in the food chain, and many are ultimately eaten by humans.  Studies have found the gastrointestinal tracts of commercially-caught fish full of microfibers, meaning that human lives are also at stake when toxic microfibers pollute our ecosystems.

As a result, it is necessary for apparel manufacturers commit to eliminating their use of plastic fibers, and as one of the world’s largest clothing producers, Nike is expected to lead not only in sales, but also in sustainability. Our Earth is facing many environmental issues which threaten our future on the planet, and Nike has a role to play in mitigating potential catastrophe however it can. It is my hope that you take these words seriously, and utilize your position to ensure that Nike takes pride in and accepts responsibility for its products and commits to eliminating its synthetic fiber use to preserve the natural world on which we all depend.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Pixabay Member 27707

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  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    stop poisoning the ocean!

  2. Nike and all other companies using synthetic fibers need to take responsibility and stop their use.


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