Date TimeSeptember 25, 2019
VoiceDelicate wash cycles in washing machines have been found to release more plastic microfibres than other cycles.
Delicate Wash Cycles Release More Plastic Microfibres
New research led by Newcastle University has shown that it’s the volume of water used during that wash cycle – rather than the spinning action of the washing machine – which is the key factor in the release of plastic microfibres from clothes.
Millions of plastic microfibres are shed every time we wash clothes that contain materials such as nylon, polyester and acrylic. And because these fibres are so small, they drain out of our washing machines and can ultimately enter the marine environment.
Once in the ocean, they are ingested by the animals living there and, two years ago, Newcastle University scientists showed for the first time these fibres have now reached the deepest parts of our ocean.Related... How The World Went Mad For Plastic And Why It's In Everything We Buy Working with Procter & Gamble in Newcastle, the team measured the release of plastic microfibres from polyester clothing for a range of cycles and water volumes.
Counting the fibres released, the team found the higher the volume of water, the more fibres released – regardless of the speed and abrasive forces of the washing machine.
In fact, they found that on average, 80,000 more fibres were released in a delicate wash than a standard cycle.
Publishing their findings today in the academic journal Environmental Science and Technology, PhD student Max Kelly, who led the research, explained: “Previous research has suggested the speed the drum spins at, the number of times it changes spinning direction during a cycle and the length of pauses in the cycle – all known as the machine agitation – is the most important factor in the amount of microfibre released.
“But we have shown here that even at reduced levels of agitation, microfibre release is still greatest with higher water-volume-to-fabric ratios. This is because the high volume of water used in a delicate cycle which is supposed to protect sensitive clothing from damage actually ‘plucks’ away more fibres from the material.”
Neil Lant, research fellow at P&G and co-author on the study, said the appliance industry has started to introduce microfibre filters in some new washing machines. “We hope that the issue will ultimately be solved by such actions, and our work on the mechanistic causes will help in the development of these solutions.”
Kelly added: “Reducing the amount of plastic pollution is everyone’s responsibility and often it’s the small changes that make a huge difference.”Related... These Ghostly 'Drowning In Plastic' Photos Will Inspire You To Do Your Bit For The Environment Burger King Is Removing All Plastic Toys From Its Children's Meals Sanitary Pads You Can Wash and Reuse? Here's Where To Buy Them

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