Home Laundry Causing Ocean Microplastic Pollution?

By now most Americans are aware of the Pacific Ocean’s Great Garbage Patch, a Texas-sized clump of man-made trash floating in the middle of the ocean. But recently scientists discovered that home washing is a “major source” of “microplastic” pollution in the oceans.

Scientists have found pinhead-sized and smaller pieces of polyester and acrylic on shorelines and are tracing them back to home washing machines, according to an American Chemical Society report on a study in its Environmental Science & Technology publication.

In the study, a team of researchers combed 18 coasts looking for microplastics and found it in excess in densely populated areas. Testing showed the probable source to be wastewater from home washing machines. The team noted that 1,900 fibers can wash off a single garment. Worse, the team reported that the debris can contain hazardous ingredients that can be ingested by fish, then later, by humans who eat the fish.

In drycleaning, all microfibers are collected in the system’s lint trap and none of the waste is allowed to flow outside of the plant. The report concludes, “Designers of clothing and washing machines should consider the need to reduce the release of fibers into wastewater and research is needed to develop methods for removing microplastic from sewage.” Labeling all synthetic garments “dryclean only” could help save the day.