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Progress on Reducing Microplastic Water Pollution

The Problem

Perhaps you have heard about the movement to remove microplastics from beauty products? The organization, Beat the Microbead, has done great work at raising awareness and eventually getting legislation to pass. Several years ago when I started following this issue it seemed like an insurmountable challenge, however today the vast majority of these products are no longer on shelves.

New Issues

Recently, there is increasing awareness about other sources of microplastic pollution in our lakes and oceans. The bad news is that some of our favorite clothes, such as fleece jackets and synthetic performance wear, are shedding these plastics into the water system. They are so small that filters at water treatment plants cannot filter them, so they end up in the waterways for wildlife to ingest. The good news is that companies like Patagonia are researching solutions. Patagonia has teamed up with university researchers to get to the bottom of the issue and recently released an update.

Potential Solutions

There are many things that can be done to reduce this pollution, with a little effort. Patagonia recommends reducing the number of times you wash your gear, only when necessary. Front loading washers have less of an impact on shedding fabrics. There are also filters that can be installed on washers to catch these microfibers. Hopefully, as awareness increases, manufacturers will start installing these filters by default. One company, Guppy Friend, ran a Kickstarter campaign to develop a bag for washing clothes that filters out the fibers. Hopefully their bags will be available for purchase soon.

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