Putting the washing machine on contributes to microplastic pollution

microplastic filter

To promote ecological habits, many people in Spain have adopted certain practices in their daily lives, such as using yellow bags for packaging, blue bags for paper and cardboard, separate bags for glass, and cloth bags for shopping. In addition, they avoid the use of plastic when buying fruits. Some opt for public transportation instead of a private car and enjoy their work coffee in reusable cups. However, it is important to note that despite these efforts, a significant contribution to pollution is unknowingly made when washing clothes. And it is that putting the washing machine on contributes to microplastic pollution.

In this article we are going to tell you how the washing machine contributes to microplastic pollution and what can be done to avoid it.

Environmental impact of microplastics in drains

impact of microplastics

In Europe alone, approximately 36 billion washing machines are used each year, releasing around 700.000 microfibers per wash. These tiny plastic particles, measuring less than 5 mm, eventually reach the depths of the sea and ocean. While there are various sources of these microfibers, clothing, particularly garments made of synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and acrylic, play an important role in this problem.

The rise of fast fashion and the poor quality of certain textiles have raised concerns among environmentalists and manufacturers alike. This is because microfibers, which are too tiny to be captured by filters or purifiers, pose a significant challenge. BSH Appartements España, an organization that represents recognized brands such as Siemens and Bosch, recognizes that addressing this problem requires collective efforts from multiple companies and industries.

It is believed that approximately 70% of the microplastics They settle on the seabed, while 15% remains suspended in the water column and another 15% remains on the surface.. According to estimates, approximately 70% of these tiny particles settle to the bottom of the ocean, while 15% remain in the water and another 15% float on the surface. LG's white goods specialist, Enrique Andrés Bustos, recognizes this issue and highlights the company's awareness in this regard.

Methods to reduce microplastics in washing


According to a white paper presented to the European Commission, installing filters in washing machines is the only viable method to rapidly decrease the release of microfibers into the environment, making it imperative that manufacturers enforce their mandatory implementation.

In February 2020, France had approved a regulation requiring washing machine manufacturers to install filters in their appliances, a requirement that was applied within a year. These filters are connected to both the washer drain hose and the main drain, using water pressure for filtration and eliminating the need for electrical energy.

This solution has already been incorporated into various products currently available on the market. Manuel Royo, Beko's marketing director, highlights that they have been offering this solution for a considerable time and have even expanded its availability to other manufacturers. Taking into account their commitment to society, they firmly believe that it is their duty to do so.

According to Royo, its system is integrated into the drawer and has the capacity to capture approximately 90% of the plastic microfibers that come off synthetic garments during the washing process. This innovative 'barrier' effectively prevents microplastics flow through the pipes and accumulate in the washing machine. Royo and his team are currently working on developing technology that eliminates the need for frequent filter changes.

Another solution is to closely monitor the operation of the washing machine. Bustos explains that they have carried out a wide range of tests, a total of 20.000, covering various washing cycles, types of garments and load sizes. On the other hand, the South Korean company LG has used artificial intelligence to significantly reduce the wear and tear of clothing. By analyzing different washes, fabrics and loads, LG has created a program that reduces clothing damage by 10%.

According to the company's appliance specialist, This program is preset and does not require any additional action from the user. In addition, starting in March the company will introduce a specialized washing cycle in its washing machines that will reduce the release of microplastics by 60%, according to Bustos. He explains that his washing machines do not use drive belts, but rather the motor directly moves the drum, allowing specific movements that minimize wear.

Samsung, on the other hand, has chosen to incorporate bubbles to help dissolve and absorb the detergent. This approach requires less heat and energy, resulting in less friction and subsequently decreased microplastic emissions, according to the South Korean company. In addition, last year they introduced a filter compatible with any washing machine, which Effectively reduces plastic microfiber emissions by up to 98% during wash cycles.

Rachael Miller, an environmentally conscious American scientist, offers a less technologically advanced but equally effective solution. She has developed Cora Ball, a small ball that captures loose fibers that come off clothes during each wash.

The role of microplastics in water pollution

Putting the washing machine on contributes to microplastic pollution

We have already seen that microplastics play a significant role in water pollution due to their ubiquitous prevalence and ability to persist in the environment for long periods of time. These tiny plastic particles, which usually They have a size less than 5 millimeters, They come from various sources, including the breakdown of larger plastics, abrasion from synthetic clothing, release of microbeads in personal care products, among others.

Once released into water, microplastics can accumulate in aquatic ecosystems, from rivers and lakes to oceans, where they can be ingested by marine organisms and enter the food chain. This contamination raises environmental and public health concerns, as microplastics They can adsorb and transport toxic chemicals and persistent organic pollutants. Additionally, they can cause internal blockages in aquatic organisms and affect their ability to feed and reproduce.

The widespread presence of microplastics in water also has implications for humans, as they can enter our drinking water sources through various routes, such as contamination of rivers and aquifers. Although the precise effects on human health are still being investigated, there is growing concern about the possible negative impacts that microplastics could have on our bodies in the long term.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about how the washing machine contributes to microplastic pollution.

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