GBF Winter 2022 Newsletter

IMPORTANT STUDY JUST PUBLISHED: WASHING MACHINE FILTERS IN PARRY SOUND PREVENT SIGNIFICANT MICROFIBRE WASTE IN WATERWAYS By Brooke Harrison, Georgian Bay Forever (GBF) Project Coordinator The collaborative study between GBF, the University of Toronto (U of T) Rochman Lab, and the Town of Parry Sound and its volunteers, was published on November 18th, 2021 in Frontiers in Marine Science, Marine BulletinI. An important publication that has already been directly read by 3,244 and been referenced to millions more in over 33 media pieces since the end of December. We are proud to share with you, our supporters — the final study conclusions and why this study is so important. The Problem Microfibres are the most common type of microplastic and human-produced particle in the environment. At less than 5mm in size, they are nearly impossible to remove and plastic microfibres will not biodegrade. Both synthetic (plastic) and modified natural fibres (eg. cotton) are a cause for concern due to continuous quantities ending up in our water and the risk of ingestion by aquatic animals that can lead to contamination up the food chain through trophic transfer. Negative impacts on aquatic life can include developmental deformities, decreased feeding and growth, hormone system disruption, decreased fertility and more. While the effects to humans are currently unknown, studies show microfibres are in our drinking water, beer, salt, fish, and the air we breathe. Researchers estimate that 4.8 million tons of synthetic microfibres (e.g., polyester and nylon) have entered water bodies and terrestrial environments since 1950. A major source of microfibre pollution comes fromfibres shed during the laundering of your clothing. A single load of laundry can release hundreds of thousands of microfibres. Although wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) can capture up to 99% of microfibres, 1% still enter water sources — billions or more daily. Furthermore, the captured 99% is also still a risk to contaminate the environment as the microfibres are captured in the form of sludge at WWTP, which can be used as fertilizer in agriculture settings contaminating soil and waterways through runoff. While the Rochman Lab demonstrated in a lab setting that washing machine filters (Wexco Filtrol 160) are effective at capturing up to 89% of microfibres shed from laundry, filters had not been proven at a broader scale and in a real-life community setting. Demonstrating a Solution And in 2019, that started a collaborative study between GBF, U of T Rochman Lab, and the Town of Parry Sound and its volunteers as part of GBF’s Divert & Capture: The Fight to Keep Microplastics out of our Water. We asked the question: Can microfibre filters applied to multiple washing machines be effective at capturing shed microfibres at the source, and thus prevent significant microfibre pollution getting into Georgian Bay? We looked at it in two ways: 1. We installed 97 filters in a community with 1,050 households connected to town water- we expected to see a 10% reduction at the WWTP. Measuring the WWTP final effluent before and after filters were deployed. 2. Additionally, we asked participating households to collect microfibres to be weighed and analyzed. “Thank you, Parry Sound! Thank you to the volunteer households in Parry Sound, Lisa Erdle and the Rochman Lab at University of Toronto (UofT), the Town of Parry Sound, and the funders, donors, and partners for making Divert & Capture possible.” —Brooke Harrison, Project Coordinator Results Over this 487-day study, 22.8 kilograms of lint was diverted from WWTP by about 63% of the 97 households. The average household collected 6.4g a week, equivalent to 179,200– 2,707,200 microfibres. In addition, this study supported previous evidence that top loader washing machines generate more lint from clothes than front loader washing machines, and therefore front loaders are a better choice to reduce emissions. We estimate we diverted 934 million to 14.1 billion microfibres from the Parry Sound WWTP, annually. A 41% reduction in the final effluent was observed at the WWTP. Although this is higher than anticipated, a possible explanation to this is behavioural change arising from the public education component of the Divert and Capture program. In conclusion, YES, microfibre filters are an effective way to stop microfibre pollution at the community and WWTP scale. This result can help inform policy decisions to reduce microfibre emissions from laundering textiles on a grand scale. 4 | WINTER 2022 | GBF.ORG