GBF 2019 Fall Newsletter

4 | FALL 2019 | GBF.ORG PROJECT UPDATE DIVERT AND CAPTURE: THE FIGHT TO KEEP MICROPLASTICS OUT OF OUR WATER Study begins on reducing microfiber pollution through washing machine filters On August 1 st , 2019, we officially “switched on” washing machine filters to divert and capture microfibres, which are the most common type of microplastic in the Great Lakes. Nearly 100 volunteer households in Parry Sound have joined forces with Georgian Bay Forever and the University of Toronto to limit microfibres from entering Georgian Bay. Why? Washing machines have been shown to release thousands of plastic and other mi- crofibre types into washing machine effluent, and when that water is carried to a wastewater treatment plant, manymicrofibres are released directly into bodies of water risking the health of aquatic ecosystems. Research from the University of Toronto demonstrates that commercially sold filters on washing machines significantly reduce micro- fibres in washing machine discharge. As a pilot project, Georgian Bay Forever (GBF) and the Rochman Lab are seeing whether the microfi- bre diversion done in a lab environment can be scaled up to a real-life municipal environment to divert microfibres from the effluent going into Georgian Bay. The amount of microfibres will be quantified over about two years and also qualified in terms of their makeup in order to provide stakeholders information that could help mitigate this pollution. What’s been done? Throughout January to July, GBF and the Rochman Lab worked together to publicize the requirements for volunteer households in Parry Sound and to educate and listen to many Georgian Bayers talk about their own plastic pollution and their own strategies for plastic use reduction (particularly single-use). It was a energizing experience—and we want to thank the over 465 people who attended these talks and the 15+ media outlets and supporters who helped spread the word. The result By August, with the help of Bay Area Plumbing and KPS Plumbing, we installed the “Filtrol 160” washing machine filters in volunteer homes in Parry Sound. Many volunteers are telling us they are taken aback by the volume of fibres the filters have started collecting. Unpleasant, but exciting! The first samples from volunteers will be taken in November to be quantified and a portion will be examined to determine their chemical makeup. The samples will continue to be submitted and tracked periodically over the next 12 to 18 months to also show any seasonality trends. In addition to the washing machine as a source of plastic pollution, we are also look- ing at the impacts of microfibre emission from machine drying including if there are associa- tions with chemicals of mutual concern (CMC). More research is pointing to the volume of microfibres being dispersed through the air, where they can end up in all types of environ- ments like water and as far as the Arctic. One source could be the dryer, where microfibres are bypassing the internal lint traps and being emitted to the atmosphere where their desti- nation is unknown. The goal of this project is to test the effectiveness of CMC diversion using external lint filters attached to the exhaust pipe of the dryer. A summary of the important questions we are trying to address As we monitor microfibres in Parry Sound, we are hoping to gain valuable information to answer questions such as: Do microfibres going into Georgian Bay decrease after install- ing washing machine filters? Do extra filters on dryers help capture significant further amounts of microfibres? How many microfi- bres are collected in a regular washing load in a family home? What is the makeup of the microfibres that are being captured? We hope that the data we collect can help provide a Lisa Erdle sampling the water at the waste water treatment plant in Parry Sound to get base level readings before the filters are installed. A washing machine filter. better estimation of microfibres captured in filters and increase scientific knowledge to inform effective policies to prevent further plastic pollution. We continue to be excited by community action that makes a difference in plastic pollu- tion! To learnmore about what you can do, this project, and the filters we are using for your own consideration visit, Author: Cassie Weston is the Divert and Capture Project Coordinator at Georgian Bay Forever. Keep an eye out for future cleanups and activities from Georgian Bay Forever by following GBF on Facebook. Author: Lisa Erdle is a PhD candidate and researcher at the Rochman Lab at the University of Toronto. Learn more about microfibres and research at the University of Toronto by follow- ing Lisa on Twitter. We send our sincerest thanks to all for their investment in this initiative. This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Environment and Climate Change. Further funding and assistance for Divert and Capture: The fight to keep microplastics out of our water, was provided by the RBC Foundation, LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, Patagonia, the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation, the Charles H. Ivey Foundation and our many passionate donors. GBF wishes to acknowledge the support of these partners: The Rochman Laboratory and the Diamond Environmental Research Group at the University of Toronto, the Town of Parry Sound, the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Fashion Takes Action and our many community volunteers!