A new study looking at the role laundry has in microfiber pollution is concerning. The Ocean Wise study estimates 878 tonnes of plastic microfibers are released from Canadian and U.S. household laundry through wastewater treatment plants each year. The report’s authors equate that weight to 10 blue whales ending up in waterways.
Microfibers in the ocean may include
While the authors of the Me, My Clothes and the Ocean report looked at the role of textiles in microfibre pollution, they acknowledge the impacts on aquatic life of these particles are not well understood. Microfibers include synthetic and natural fibers.
How did they come up with this?
In what they describe as a custom-designed washing machine, Ocean Wise scientists calculated the shedding properties of 38 textile samples. The focus on laundry is just part of a much bigger picture. They report is included in an global initiative that aims to characterize the identity, fate and effects of microplastics in the world’s oceans.
The worst offender: Polyester
The findings delve much deeper into the breakdown of fibers, but for our purposes here is what stands out. Polyester is the worst offender. The report says ‘polyester textile samples, dominated by mechanically treated polyester fleeces and jerseys, shed the most‘ and interestingly, cotton and wool textiles also shed large amounts of microfibers.