Wash your fleece in a bag to stop microfibre pollution

Simple changes to the way we wash fleeces and other synthetic clothing could prevent billions of tiny plastic fibres from entering the ocean, according to scientists. Research has shown that more than 700,000 fibres thinner than a human hair can be flushed into drains from a single washing machine load of polyester or acrylic clothing. Microfibres are ingested by shellfish and plankton and can ultimately be consumed by humans. Placing synthetic clothes in a special bag before putting them in the washing machine can reduce the abrasion that causes fibres to be shed as well as capture any that would otherwise be flushed away. Now the same team of scientists from Plymouth University who discovered the extent of the pollution from plastic clothing is to examine the most effective techniques for preventing it. Imogen Napper, a marine scientist at the university, will test various bags that have a very fine mesh designed to trap the fibres. She will also test so-called laundry balls, such as the Cora Ball, which are placed in the machine with clothing and are said to catch the fibres released. She will examine whether clothes washed in a bag emerge as clean as those washed normally by comparing the impact of the two methods on deliberately stained clothing. Ms Napper, 26, will also study the effectiveness of filters that can be added to the drain pipes of washing machines to capture fibres. Ms Napper said that her work as a marine scientist was not as exciting as it sounded because she would be spending a long time in a laboratory doing more than 100 loads of washing and counting fibres. “People might assume I am travelling to exotic places and scuba diving with turtles, but my research is based in a lab with washing machines,” she said. Her research would also examine people’s willingness to use one of the devices when washing clothes, she added. Ms Napper had been inspired to investigate the impact of plastic on the ocean because she had grown up near the sea and her hobby was surfing. “It’s making me really upset that I could be surfing and next to me there would be a plastic water bottle,” she said. “If that’s happening in the coast around me and is happening all around the world it’s something we really need to attack now.” She is one of three young scientists being funded by National Geographic and Sky to run research projects looking at the impact of plastic pollution on the ocean and how to mitigate it.

The Times, 16 April 2018 ; http://www.timesonline.co.uk

Posted in Uncategorized