New research shows washing machine filters drastically reduce microfibre pollution

Erin O'Neill By: Erin O'Neill
Date posted: 16 July 2020

A recent study has revealed that filters fitted inside washing machines can reduce the amount of plastic microfibres released into wastewater by almost 80%.

Researchers from the University of Plymouth compared six different devices, capturing fibres that weren’t removed by the devices in a fine mesh. Products tested included factory-fitted filters, external filters, and items that can be bought by consumers, like fibre-capturing bags.

This independent research shows clearly that washing machine fitted filters are the most effective method of preventing microfibre loss from washing clothes.

Dr Laura Foster,
Head of Clean Seas

MCS Head of Clean Seas, Dr Laura Foster, said: “This independent research shows clearly that washing machine fitted filters are the most effective method of preventing microfibre loss from washing clothes. We’re urging people to sign our petition which will require the filters in all new domestic and commercial machines, by law, by 2023 and retrofitted in commercial machines by 2024. Having all washing machines fitted with filters will make a huge impact on the volume of microfibres polluting our ocean from every wash.”

“The clothes we have will continue to shed fibres now and in the many years to come, which means that we need to have filters fitted, as well as improvements from the fashion industry.”

Washing synthetic clothes accounts for 35% of primary microplastics found in the environment. Fish ingest these tiny fibres, which means they’re destined for our plates - 63% of shrimp in the North Sea contain synthetic fibres.

MCS Sea Champion and Research Fellow, Dr Imogen Napper, the study’s lead author, said: “Fibres from clothing are among the key sources of microplastics, and companies are inventing ways which claim to reduce the amount of fibres which enter wastewater. We wanted to see how effective they were both in catching fibres, but also stopping clothes from shedding them in the first place. Our results show there is a huge variety between the devices available, with some significantly reducing the number of fibres released.”

We are calling for the UK government to follow in the steps of France, who have said that all washing machines sold from 2025 will have a microfibre filter.

Click here to sign our petition to #StopOceanThreads.

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