Doing the laundry possibly biggest source of plastic pollution

The Plastic Soup Foundation organises a European summit concerning alarming research

Amsterdam, 20th January 2015 — It is possible that clothing and washing machines contribute the most to the notorious “plastic soup” in our oceans. New research indicates that during each laundry cycle millions of tiny synthetic fibres are released into the washing water. Via the food-chain, these fibres eventually end up on our own plates. Thus we all unintentionally contribute to this rapidly increasing environmental problem.

Tackling this problem head-on, on the 22nd January the Plastic Soup Foundation is organising a summit with prominent speakers from the world of science and “haute-couture”.

Besides cosmetics (such as shampoo, toothpaste and scrubs) it appears that clothing is also a source of microplastics. Synthetic fibres contained in many fabrics wear-out through use or they break off into minuscule particles. These are destined for our oceans by being sluiced-off with the waste water from washing machines. Due to salty sea-water conditions, these plastic particles fragment even further and fish mistakenly consider them as plankton. This results in synthetic fibres ending up on our own plates via the food-chain.

For a number of years now ecologist Mark Browne of the University of New South Wales has studied this problem. This Thursday, he will visit the Netherlands and for the first time he will talk about his findings. As early as 2011 in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology, he published that 85% of all man-made microfibres found on beaches originate from clothing which contains nylon and acrylic.

According to his research, more than 1,900 fibres per laundry cycle, per garment are released.
Environmental scientist, Heather Leslie of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, has provided more recent research indicating that the problem is even greater than previously thought. Each litre of water is said to contain 200,000 small fibres — this amounts to millions of fibres per laundry cycle. These micro- and nanoplastics can slip by in large numbers when passing through water treatment plants.

Professor Dr. Dick Vethaak of the renowned Deltares research institute will examine ways to turn the tide. A possible solution could be washing machine filters which trap the fibres.

“While scientists raise the alarm, many manufacturers of washing machines are still ignoring this. This can’t be true. I urge all manufacturers of washing machines to take responsibility and construct these filters”, says Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation.
Attending the summit will be representatives from the following well-regarded European institutes: the National Research Council (Italy) and Leitat and POLYSISTEC (Spain). In collaboration with the Plastic Soup Foundation, these institutes will examine ways to improve the manufacture of clothing so that fibres are not released. This is part of the EU-funded LIFE+ programme (Mermaids, Ocean Clean Wash). Also being investigated is the amount of added plastic in detergent and alternatives for microbeads (www.life-mermaids.eu).

Leading Dutch fashion designers Monique Collignon and Hasmik Matevosyan (one of the radical innovators of 2014 responsible for a new method of designing) will illuminate this problem and suggest possible solutions.
Press conference

The Plastic Soup Foundation invites the national and international press to attend this special conference on Thursday, 22nd January 2015 beginning at 10:00 AM at the Koninklijke Industrieele Groote Club on the Dam in Amsterdam.

See the complete programme (including registration) at the following: http://us9.campaign-archive2.com/?u=f79340ea34d0114aac212dc7a&id=56758bec14&e=6a07f4b02d