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Organizations push Ontario’s political parties to step up microfibre pollution measures

Washing machine filters can help significantly


March 22, 2022
By Ground Water Canada

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Toronto – Ontario’s political parties are being pushed to support enhanced protection of the province’s freshwater resources through increased awareness of microfibre pollution being discharged in wastewater via washing machines.

Among the organizations leading the charge include Georgian Bay Forever (GBF), the University of Toronto (UofT) Trash Team, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the Georgian Bay Association, and the Severn Sound Environmental Association.

Microfibres (less than five millimetres) are the most abundant form of microplastics and other human-made particles in the environment. Plastic, cotton and other textile microfibres shed during laundering in the hundreds of thousands per wash. Trillions contaminate the Great Lakes on an annual basis through wastewater effluent. Researchers in the Rochman Lab report microplastics in the guts of nearly every fish sampled from the Great Lakes, with microfibres as the most abundant. They also find their shape and chemistry can cause harm when ingested by aquatic life. Filters have been found to divert up to 89 per cent from one well-understood source: washing machines.

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A study published in Nov 2021 by GBF and the UofT Trash Team (in collaboration with the Rochman Lab) revealed that about 60 household washing machine filters can capture up to 9.7 billion microfibres, thereby significantly reducing microfibre pollution in discharged wastewater.

“In our study with GBF, each household washing machine filter was shown to capture an average of 6.4 grams of lint, which diverted an estimated 179,000 to 2.7 million microfibres per week from wastewater,” Dr. Chelsea Rochman, assistant professor at UofT, said. “When scaled to the approximately 1.2 million households in Toronto, assuming each had a washing machine, the annual microfibre capture could be in the range of 12 to 166 trillion microfibres.”

Today, Ontario MPP Jessica Bell is reintroducing a private member’s bill that would require all future washing machines to be equipped with microfibre filters to protect waterways.

“Currently, there are barriers to mass adoption of effective commercially available washing machine filters including $180 to $220 costs, inadequate space for filters in laundry rooms, and low awareness of microfibre pollution,” GBF executive director David Sweetnam said.  “This bill would enable many more Ontario households to reduce microfibre emissions. To get passed, this bill needs your support by writing your local member of provincial parliament. We are asking for thousands of letters to be sent before the end of March.”

To access a letter of support for your MPP and more information, visit: http://gbf.org/microfibres.