Washing Your Clothes Causes Harm To Local Waterways. Here’s What You Can Do to Help.


Did you know that 60% of our clothes are made of plastics? During a wash, our clothes shed mircofibres and those teeny tiny bits of plastic end up in our waterways. Then, they end up in the bodies of aquatic life like fish.[1] One load of laundry can produce millions of microfibres.

A collaboration between Georgian Bay Forever (GBF) and the Rochman Laboratory at the University of Toronto has found that filters on washing machines can catch the microfibres before they get into our water system. This study, which began in August of 2019, is the first time a lab-proven filter solution has shown positive results in a real life application.

“An example of what can be collected and diverted from water using a filter after one month of family household washing machine use”


Why Filter our Washing Machines?

Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to catch and dispose of microfibres. That means billions of these tiny pieces of plastic make their way from our homes into lakes and oceans. This poses a risk for animal health.

The study in Parry Sound installed washing machine filters in 97 households. They captured 6.4g of lint per week, diverting an estimated 179,000 to 2,707,200 microfibres per week from going down the drain.

“A filter affixed to a washing machine. This filter is already starting to accumulate microwaste that is shed from clothing in the wash.”

The results showed that filters installed in about 10% of households, can reduce emissions by at least 10%, or potentially more when combined with education to the greater community.

According to David Sweetnam, Executive Director GBF and co-author of the study, an estimate 934 million to 14.1 billion microfibres were diverted from wastewater treatment plants annually for households in Parry Sound. If they scaled up to a large city like Toronto, the annual microfibre capture could be more like 12 to 166 trillion.

What Can I Do?

On April 19, 2021, Ontario Private Member’s Bill 279 was introduced to prohibit the sale of washing machines that are not equipped with a specified microplastics [microfibre] filter. The first reading has carried. So, GBF is calling on the public to write their local Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) and voice their support for Bill 279. Today, the washing machine filters are commercially available in Canada, and cost about $180 to $200.

For more information visit: https://georgianbayforever.org/parry-sound-study/

Georgian Bay Forever is a charity dedicated to funding scientific research and educating the public and governments on continuous environmental protection, and the safety of Georgian Bay’s aquatic ecosystem.

Images: Georgian Bay Forever. Title Image: “Jars of collected lint samples from the study. One load of household laundry can shed up to a million microfibres into our waterways.”