New study suggests broad public support for microfiber filters to be fitted to domestic washing machines

There is wide-spread public support to tackle the issue of plastic microfiber pollution in the world’s rivers and oceans, by fitting domestic washing machines with microfiber filters

There is wide-spread public support to tackle the issue of plastic microfiber pollution in the world’s rivers and oceans, by fitting domestic washing machines with microfiber filters, according to a study commissioned by Xeros Technology Group, which specialises in making water-intensive industries more sustainable.

Washing clothes containing synthetic fibres such as acrylic or polyester is now the single biggest source of microplastic pollution entering our oceans every year. Every time we wash clothes containing synthetic fibres, as many as 700,000 microscopic pieces, known as microfibers, come off and are released into the environment.

Recent campaigns about microfiber pollution have focused on the fashion and textile industries, challenging them to address the issue by changing their sourcing and production processes. But a new study of more than 1,100 people in the UK by the global intelligence platform Streetbees, which was commissioned by Xeros, suggests that many people would prefer a different approach.

When people were asked to say which potential solutions to microfiber pollution they would support, more people opted for fitting microfiber filters to new washing machines (82 per cent) than limiting the use of microfibers in clothing or avoiding buying clothes containing them.

The survey also indicates that the majority want to see strong political direction on the issue, with 61 per cent of respondents ‘strongly agreeing’ and 29 per cent ‘slightly agreeing’ that governments should legislate to make microfiber filters mandatory in all new washing machines.

Mark Nichols, Chief Executive Officer of Xeros Technology Group said: “Microfibers that come off our clothes are doing as much damage to the marine environment as plastic bags and discarded fishing gear. And every time we do a load of washing at home we are all unwittingly adding to microfiber pollution in the oceans.

“Around the world, innovative companies are looking at possible solutions to microfiber pollution. Last year we made a commitment as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to develop a microfiber filtration system for domestic washing machines. Having done so and seen what is achievable, I believe that fitting filtration to all new washing machines would go a long way to addressing this urgent issue.”

The survey by Streetbees also highlights how just how concerned people have become about plastic pollution, with more people identifying it as a serious and urgent environmental issue (92 per cent) ahead of other issues such as global warming, deforestation and over fishing.

However, the study also suggests a need for more public education on how microfibers are contributing to the problem because more than half of respondents (58 per cent) did not know that washing clothes containing synthetic fibres resulted in plastic microfibers being

released into the environment. And only a third of respondents (31 per cent) identified microfibers as a major source of plastic pollution in the oceans, far fewer than those identifying rubbish such as plastic bottles, straws and discarded fishing gear.

The survey also found low levels of knowledge of the impact microfibers are having on humans with:

  • 53 per cent not knowing that microfibers are entering the food chain after being ingested by plankton, and
  • 57 per cent not aware of studies showing microfibers present in drinking water

Mark Nichols continues: “With so many people concerned about the impact of microfiber pollution, and our survey indicating overwhelming public support for fitting microfiber filters to new washing machines as a potential solution, it’s imperative for politicians and industry to act now to help consumers make positive choices to tackle this unseen plastic pollution.”

An infographic providing more information on XFiltra™ can be found here

A video about microfibers pollution and washing machine filtration can be found here

[1] https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2017-002.pdf

[2] https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/news/washing-clothes-releases-thousands-of-microplastic-particles-into-environment-study-shows