How often do you think of the ocean when you put your dirty clothes into the washing machine?
If you’re like most of us, it probably doesn’t cross your mind that often. However, recent research shows that each time you wash synthetic clothes in a washing machine, more than 20 million plastic microfibres are released into the waste water system.
Surely, waste water is treated to remove the pollutants so there’s no problem, right?
Although, waste water is usually treated before it makes its way into the ocean, these plastic microfibres are too tiny to be caught by existing filtration systems. With each load of washing, we generate a cloud of microplastic pollution which eventually makes its way into our oceans.
At the last KIMO International Conference, KIMO members approved a new Resolution on Microplastics in which KIMO calls on all European governments to:
Tighten controls on discharges from point sources such as plastic production facilities and waste water facilities and from domestic sources such as washing machines to prevent microplastics and microfibres from entering the marine environment.
In order to stop plastic microfibre pollution from synthetic clothes entering the ocean, we need a multi-faceted collaborative effort from governments, scientists, industry and the public. To this end, the Ocean Clean Wash campaign was launched. The campaign is fundraising to issue a global Eco Innovation Challenge targeted at the fashion, textile, chemical and washing machine industries. They are challenging scientists, investors and innovators to come up with a sustainable long term solution to eradicate marine microfibre pollution from the washing of synthetic clothing.
According to the Ocean Clean Wash campaign website, the solutions might take the form of :
1) A mechanical internal and/or external washing machine filter to catch the plastic fibers;
2) Synthetic yarns and fabrics that do not release plastic fibers during washing;
3) Eco-friendly coatings to prevent the release of plastic fibers;
4) Eco-friendly washing detergents, which prevent the shedding of plastic fibers;
5) A yet undiscovered innovation beyond imagination.
We hold our breath for solution 5! The best solutions stand a chance of winning the prize of one million Euros which will be used to help progress the concept from design to practical implementation.
Please visit the Ocean Clean Wash website to find out more about the campaign and to lend your support.