Diverting and capturing microplastics in Collingwood

Background to understanding Collingwood's particpation

Collingwood Divert and Capture Picture

In 2018, Georgian Bay Forever started a study in Parry Sound to prove that filters affixed to 100 household washing machines can meaningfully divert microplastic waste from getting into Georgian Bay. The study has a particular focus on microfiber pollution, which is the most prolific microplastic form found in waters - much of it comes from washing your clothes. Furthermore, a lot of it is plastic (worldwide purchasing shows that about 60% of clothes are made with plastic).

Studies show up to 700,000 microfibers can be shed from one wash depending on the clothing type, how it is made, the type of washer (top loader=worse, front loader=less bad), the temperature of the wash and so much more. Millions/billions of fibers go down the drain to wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) daily. While WWTP are unsung heroes of water quality, they aren't able to capture 1 to 10% of microfiber pollution - meaning that millions/billions are escaping and accumulating in the water environment (plastic never really goes away).

While the study isn't complete, preliminary results indicate positive signs to mitigate this issue. Early results indicate that with a reduction of 1 to 2 microfibers per liter of effluent, between 3 to 6 million microfibers can be prevented from getting into the water by just 100 households using filters on their washing machines. As we await the final results of the study, communities like Collingwood knew that they could do more!

Find out about the programs for Collingwood to Divert and Capture microplastics from getting into the water environment.

Thank you to these funders who have made this program possible
This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change.
Ce projet a été realisé avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada agissant par l’entremise du ministère fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique.
The LeVan Family
The Weston Family Foundation
Georgian Bay Forever donors

We also want to thank these valuable partners:
The Town of Collingwood
The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
Blue Mountain Watershed Trust
University of Toronto Trash Team
We're looking for 300 Collingwood households to volunteer for a FREE washing machine filter.

How do you qualify?

  • Volunteers must use their washing machine year-round and be connected to Collingwood Town water.

  • There must be space for the filter unit - which is about the size of a large vertical paper towel dispenser.

  • Georgian Bay Forever needs some volunteer participation over the course of 2 years, which includes a short survey about laundry habits and emptying the filter every 2-3 weeks in a provided bag that will be picked up for measurement.
If you feel that you qualify, please email brooke.harrison@gbf.org so that we can work out the details.

Curious about the filter?
Go to this link to see a short video about it.

Why should you volunteer?

1. We're sending more and more microfiber pollution into our water from washing our clothes. Since about 60% of clothes worldwide are made of plastic, many of these microfibers are plastic, and will therefore never really go away - they are just going to keep building up and building up.

  • According to Capturing microfibers – marketed technologies reduce microfiber emissions from washing machines 1( McIlwraith at. al), the Lint LUV-R (a filter similar to the FIltrol 160) captured 87% of micofibers in the wash by count.

  • Microfibers come off your clothes during laundering, and since most of your clothes are likely made from synthetic materials many of them are plastic. These tiny strands of plastic (less than 5 mm) can be as high as 700,000 per wash load depending on the amount and the synthetic materials in the wash (Napper and Thompson) 2.

  • In the Capturing microfibers1(McIIwraith et.al) published research paper, 90,700 to 138,000 fibers are estimates based on washing one synthetic blanket. Some further 'downstream estimates' show some potentially very alarming consequences.
Micofiber pollution frm washing machines
2. The effects are largely unknown and more research needs to be done by scientists, but those that have been done show reason to be concerned as we put more of this pollution into the aquatic environment.

*An excerpt from Lisa Erdle's article in Georgian Bay Forever's Winter 2018 issue. Lisa Erdle is a PhD student in the Rochman Lab at the University of Toronto.
  • Given their ubiquity and small dimensions, the ingestion and impacts of microplastics are cause for concern. Over 220 species have been recorded as ingesting microplastics and include species ranging from microscopic, e.g., zooplankton, to megafauna, e.g., humpback whales. Microplastics also accumulate in food chains and reach humans through seafood consumption, e.g., mussels, fish and oysters.
  • Effects of microplastics are far-reaching. Researchers have investigated the impacts of microplastics on gene expression, individual cells, survival, and reproduction. Mounting evidence shows that negative impacts can include decreased feeding and growth, endocrine disruption, decreased fertility, as well as other lethal and sub-lethal effects. While some effects are due to ingestion stress, e.g., physical blockage, many risks to ecosystems are associated with the chemicals in plastic, either added to plastic as ingredients in production or absorbed from “chemical cocktails” in the surrounding environment.
  • Studies have shown that chemicals transfer to fish when they consume microplastics. When these fish end up on our dinner plates, we have the potential to increase the burden of hazardous chemicals in our bodies. However, it is unclear how microfibers may uniquely contribute to these contaminant burdens, since microfibers are often associated with distinct mixtures of chemicals used to manufacture fibers and clothing.

If you feel that you qualify for a washing machine filter in Collingwood, please email brooke.harrison@gbf.org so that we can work out the details.
School Program
GBF's partnered with the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA). They developed a program to go and educate students from grades 6 to 8 in Collingwood about watersheds and how they can get polluted by microplastics. Components of the program involve:

  • Teaching about the basics of watersheds, and how water flows into Georgian Bay.
  • Where possible, hands-on discovery involving taking sediment/soil and water samples, and discerning what's in them (natural and unnatural particles like microplastics).
  • Helping students understand behaviours around plastic that harm the environment and what they can do to reduce harm.
8 minute video. NVCA discusses the School Program

Teachers/adminstrators in Collingwood. If this program is of interest to you, and your school is in Collingwood please email nsaunders@nvca.on.ca Naomi Sanders of the NVCA.

Summer Program
If your Collingwood camp or children's program is interested in learning about microplastics, or taking part in a shoreline cleanup, please email brooke.harrison@gbf.org to work out details and timing.
IMage from PLasti-Free Parry Sound
Inspired by Plastic-Free Parry Sound, volunteers to this group will help work on a number of programs and tactics to reduce plastic waste in Collingwood.

Objectives and tactics could include:
  • Starting conversations with local businessess about their "lightly-used" plastic consumption, and working with them to determine ways to reduce its utilization.
  • Enlisting schools and employers to inventory their "lightly-used" plastic consumption, and working with them to determine ways to reduce its utilization.
  • Finding other groups and organizations who are open to hearing about plastic litter, use, and reduction; and working on information or materials to help set and achieve goals.

If you would like to join Plastic-Free Georgian Bay, please email brooke.harrison@gbf.org. Also, if you are part of a group that would be interested in hearing a presentation or participating in a workshop on plastic waste and reduction, please email brooke.harrison@gbf.org

Help organize a shoreline cleanup, or join one that is already planned

In the spring, summer, and fall - GBF works with citizen groups, individuals, and organizations to facilitate shoreline cleanups and characterize the trash collected into data that can be powerfully used to identify and pinpoint sources of litter for mitigation efforts. (Read the story of unencapsulated polystyrene foam from docks as one example of citizen cleanups and data collection making a difference. Click here.)

If you are interested in volunteering for a shoreline cleanup in Collingwood or your group is interested in conducting one and sharing the data, please email brooke.harrison@gbf.org.
15 sec video showing the 'vacuuming' action of a Seabin at Wye Heritage Marina in Georgian Bay

Characterizing waste form a Seabin
'Mining' the litter from litter trapping tecnology to help identify sources

Background: Georgian Bay Forever recognized that plastics pollution, both macro and micro, were a huge problem in Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes. Aside from some of the projects you have been reading about to divert and capture plastic litter, we also explored other diversion technology like Seabins and Gutterbins, and Littatraps.

Seabins act as stationary surface water vacuums, sucking up debris into their bin storage units. Gutterbins and Litttraps are dropped into storm drains to capture debris that is washing down into the storm drain from various sources. Trash Traps are a separate unit and these are installed on the outflow pipe. You can find more information about both technologies here.

These devices are not a complete solution to littering. They will capture a really important amount that volunteers can't get, but not nearly enough to capture the estimated 22 million pounds of plastic that are estimated to enter the Great Lakes every year. What adds to the value of these technologies is our ability to sort through their 'catch' and record the amounts and type of litter that is found.
In 2020, Georgian Bay Forever joined the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup (GLPC), a huge intiative to broaden the dispersal of these technologies and to bring together analysis of the litter they are collecting. By joining GLPC, we bring our local knowlege and relationships to the effort, and GBF benefits from the know-how, expertise, and resources of the founding partners and other collaborators to ultimatley deliver more capture of litter and more insight. The founding partners of GLPC are Boating Ontario, the Council of the Great Lakes Region, Pollution Probe, PortsToronto and the U of T Trash Team.

How can you help?

By volunteering to help us charcterize the 'catch' in Collingwood.

Thanks to GBF, The Town of Collingoowd, and GLPC, 3 seabins will be installed in Collingwood. While they will be capturing litter from the water every day in the Spring, Summer, and Fall that will be disposed of properly; the content of the catch needs to be sorted and analyzed 10 x a year (5 times in the dry season, and 5 times in the wet season).

We're looking for volunteers who want to learn the protocol for sorting the 'catch'including recording and sending in the findings to the GLPC. Each analyis might take 1-3 hours to do depending on how much litter is caught, and how fragmented and tiny the pieces are. Gratifying and worthwhile work.

If you can volunteer in Collingwood to do this, please email brooke.harrison@gbf.org to learn more about how, when, and where.
Collingwood is a vibrant community rich with history and culture and is the urban centre of a region that includes outdoor recreation opportunities both on land and on water. The downtown heritage district, recognized in Canada’s Registrar of Historic Places, includes award-winning restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and boutiques and has become a four-season getaway for all visitors. A destination for tourism and a diverse array of business and industry, the community is growing because of both natural assets and public and private investments. The Town seeks to be socially and environmentally conscious while being responsible and responsive to the needs of residents and visitors.

For more information visit www.collingwood.ca..
25th Anniversary Quote
Thank you Collingwood

Your participation in mitigating plastic litter is inspiring and so important for protecting the aquatic environment. Here are a few useful links to learn more about other communties, some tips, and GBF related projects on platic mitigation.

  • More information and videos about microplastics and the Parry Sound filter project. Click here.
  • Unencapsulated polystrene foam (dock foam) litter and alternates. Click here.
  • A PDF download on tips to reducing microfiber plastics from getting into the environment. Click here.
  • A one-page PDF of some tips from a Pointe au Baril workshop in July 2019. Click here.
  • Shoreline cleanups. See what other communites did. Check out these stories.

Please consider a donation to GBF's efforts to protect the water of Georgian Bay.
Thank you to these funders who have made this program possible

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change.
Ce projet a été realisé avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada agissant par l’entremise du ministère fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique.
The LeVan Family
The Weston Family Foundation
Georgian Bay Forever donors

We also want to thank these valuable partners:
The Town of Collingwood
The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
Blue Mountain Watershed Trust
University of Toronto Trash Team