A new study estimates that 968 tons of plastic microfibers end up in wastewater treatment plants in the United States and Canada, from laundry. The report was done by Ocean Wise to study the effects of microfiber pollution.

“Microfibers” include synthetic and natural fibers, including those from clothes. This is the most robust study to date, and it found that 10 blue whales worth of weight of microfibers enters lakes, rivers, oceans and waterways each year. This finding may explain the billions of microfibers found in oceans. These microfibers are a significant contributor to the microplastics problem in our oceans and waterways.

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The report found that 533 million microfibers are released each year, just from the United States and Canada.

The study used a custom washing machine, they examined how 38 different textile samples shred and were washed. According to the report, the worst fabric offender was polyester. Polyester is often found in polyester fleece and jerseys, many of which are chemically treated.

“Our overall hope is that these findings provide a conduit to solutions at multiple levels.These results illustrate the important role that we can all play in implementing solutions through the decisions we make as consumers, the green design options we choose as manufacturers, the designs we employ as wastewater treatment engineers, and the initiatives we lead as policymakers in government,” says Dr. Peter Ross, Vice-President of Research at Ocean Wise.

The report included ways you can help reduce microfiber release, including wash clothing less, say “no” to fast fashion, use a front loading washer and cold water, and install a microfiber filter on your machine.

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Microplastics are an increasingly significant problem in our oceans. Many animals mistake them for food. Read articles in One Green Planet about microplastics, including this sea turtle that was found with microplastics in its belly.

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