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Microplastics from Laundry Water End Up in Waterways & the Ocean

March 29, 2023 1 min read

“Every time clothing is washed, tiny strands of fabric break off and go down the drain. Research has shown that microplastics in the ocean are being mistaken for food by zooplankton and fish, raising concerns about impacts to their health,” says Peter Ross, vice-president of research at Ocean Wise who led a joint study conducted by Metro Vancouver and Ocean Wise. 

The 2018 study raises questions about waste water from household laundry as a significant source of microplastic particles in water ways and the ocean.

The majority of microparticles that end up in a Metro Vancouver wastewater treatment plant are primarily from fibres such as polyester and rayon (modified cellulose) which indicates that they are coming from our laundry water.

Although Metro Vancouver treatment plants (which serves 1.3 million people) filter and remove up to 99% of 1.8 trillion plastic particles that enter our wastewater treatment system each year, about 30 billion of those particles are still released into the ocean.

Metro Vancouver residents and all Canadians are encouraged to help reduce microplastic pollution. Here are some suggestions:

  • Do laundry less frequently when possible
  • Use front-loading laundry machines (which cause clothes to shed four times fewer fibres than top-loading washing machines)
  • Use cold water
  • Use less soap
  • Install a lint trap or lint filter on your washing machine’s discharge hose

*  Retention of Microplastics in a Major Secondary Wastewater Treatment Plant in Vancouver, Canada, published in 2018 in Marine Pollution Bulletin, an international scientific journal.

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