Microfibers are one of the most abundant and ubiquitous types of microplastic found in nature, including in California’s agricultural lands, waterways, and coastal environments. Once in the environment, microfibers are nearly impossible to clean up, which is why upstream interventions are critical in preventing these particles from entering the environment in the first place. Washing clothing is one of the primary pathways by which these microfibers are generated and enter the environment - a single load of laundry can release up to 18 million microfibers!
Interventions are needed to address microfiber pollution across the full lifecycle of textiles. In addition to exploring upstream textile redesign and infrastructure solutions to reduce the generation of microfibers, we need near-term solutions to effectively capture microfibers before they enter the environment.
Fortunately, washing machine filter technology has already proven to be an effective solution. These filters are affordable and have demonstrated their efficacy to capture up to 90 percent of microfibers in laboratory and field trials. There are no significant technical or financial barriers to applying these filters to new washing machines, in fact, microfiber filtration technology is already built into washing machines from major brands.
California has the opportunity with AB 1628 to lead in reducing microfiber pollution and incentivize innovation among washing machine manufacturers. With effective filtration solutions already available, we cannot afford to wait to address the threats of microfiber pollution.
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Header image: A microscope image shows a closer view of microfibers. Photo: Mathew Watkins