Built-in washing machine filters quick fix to microplastic problem, advocates say

Single load of laundry sends 15M microfibers into waterways

ByTracy Butler and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Wednesday, May 8, 2024
Dirty little secret is lurking in your laundry: Microfibers
A single load of laundry sends 15 million microfibers through our waterways.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There's a dirty little secret lurking in your laundry.

A single load of laundry sends 15 million microfibers through our waterways.

Microfibers are tiny little strands of plastic that shed off our clothes and make their way into our waterways and drinking water.

Andrea Densham is a policy director with Alliance for the Great Lakes.

"Our water treatment centers work really, really hard to get the worst of the worst out but that means they have to work extra hard if we're not catching it first," said Densham.

Densham said there's a simple and 90 percent effective solution to the problem: Washing Machine Filters.

"It's a completely easy fix, we already have the solutions for it," said Densham. "Buy a new washer machine that has a filter in it.

RELATED: Pollution report finds vast majority of Great Lakes litter is plastic

There are currently three pending Illinois bills that would make built-in washer machine filters a reality.

HB 4269/S.B. 2727, State Rep. Kimberly du Buclet and State Sen. Julie A. Morrison

This legislation will require adding filters to new washing machines sold after January 1, 2030, to help capture microfibers and prevent microplastic pollution.

"It's really doable, our friends in the EU and the Asian markets can already buy these washer machines now," said Densham.

HB5659, Rep. Daniel Didech

The Microfiber manufacturing credit would provides credits to qualifying microfiber filtration manufacturers for manufacturing microfiber filters and machines in Illinois.

"We can also make them here and so we have an incentive bill that allows manufacturers to get paid and incentivized to make them here," said Densham.

HB5658, Rep. Daniel Didech

The Micfofiber Filter Rebate Act provides a rebate for the cost of the microfiber washing machine filter or replacement filter.

There are also after-market filters you can already purchase, as well as microfiber laundry balls you can throw in the wash. Both are proven to be just as effective, said Densham.

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But Densham said it also involves changing the way we do our laundry. Something Glen Ellyn wife and mom of two Myra Kayser said she plans on doing immediately.

"There's like three changes a day. We have like two loads a day and if I skip, four loads," said Kayser. "I'm going to have my girls help me with trying to maximize loads and not doing two or three loads a day."

Using cold water, less detergent and even air drying all help clothes from shedding microfibers as well.

"It's very concerning of where you're going to take a double take of what you're doing so i think it's up to us to make that change," said Kayser.