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KBzine: the original kitchen and bathroom industry e-newssince 2002
28th January 2021


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Since I first tried out a microfibre cleaning cloth in the 90s I've used nothing else. The idea that the cloth can eliminate the need for cleaning chemicals and still present an acceptable finish on the surface being cleaned really appealed to me. It was only during a conversation with a cloth manufacturer earlier this year that I became aware that the fibres do their own damage to the environment - just in a different way.

I had no idea until then that the fleeces and throws that have become so popular in recent years were made of similar fibres and that these leech into our waterways every time we wear/use them - as well as while they're in the wash. Today an industry colleague forwarded me an article from the Daily Mail headed up: "We're all eating our own washing! How 'fast fashion' clothes made from polyester are polluting the seas with tiny plastic fibres that are shed from washing machines... and ending up back in the food chain."

The article goes on to discuss how Richard Thompson, professor of Marine Biology at Plymouth University, led a study with the International Marine Litter Research Unit in which a washing machine was filled with separate loads of jumpers made from three different synthetic fabrics, and used a micro-sieve attached to the drain hose to catch the fibres released during the washes.

The researchers found that a washload of 13lb can release into the wastewater systems, some 140,000 fibres from polyester/cotton blend, nearly half a million fibres from polyester and more than 700,000 fibres from acrylic. And while some of these fibres will be intercepted during the wastewater treatment process, others - due to their small size - will escape into the environment, ready for us to consume in some fashion or other!

Vacuum cleaners can be fitted with HEPA filters to prevent collected dust from escaping from the machine and I'm wondering how long it will be before an astute washing machine manufacturer will devise a filter to prevent microfibres from escaping into our waterways. There will of course need to be an easy way of emptying the filter so that the fibres don't waft around in the air, but it shouldn't be too difficult and the manufacturer will end up with a unique selling point that will appeal to those of us who are environmentally aware.

A challenge then!




Jan Hobbs



19th October 2018

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