Reliably measuring microplastics released during laundry #153


The first test method that can reliably measure the amount of small plastic particles released from textiles during domestic laundering has been developed by scientists.

The research has been supported by The Microfibre Consortium who work with the textile industry to minimise fibre fragmentation and release to the environment.

It has been rolled out to the Consortium’s membership, which includes clothing brands, retailers and textile manufactures and is now pending commercial roll-out, which will result in the adoption of standard measurement across the industry. The method is also being considered by European and international standards organisations.

Washing machines vary greatly in terms of spin speed, cycle duration, and water use. As these factors have a major impact on microplastic release, a test method based on using different machines was inherently inconsistent.

“The new test uses a system called ‘gyrowash’ that replicates the actions found in a range of washing machines,” said Dr Sumner.

“Using this one system means we have confidence that the results we get are representative and reliable – we can use this method to compare results across a very broad range of fabric types as we explore solutions to microfibre release.

“We can’t assess and compare microfibre release across the industry without a reliable test. We hope that this method will provide the basis for determining the scale of microfibre release as well as help in the process for finding solutions to microfibre pollution.”

The School of Design has confirmed a further three years of funding from The Microfibre Consortium to research the mechanisms that impact microplastics release and to explore solutions.