Microplastics found in wastewater mainly result from two factors: Firstly, many cosmetic products, such as toothpaste, creams, shower gels, and peelings, contain tiny pieces of plastic to achieve a mechanical cleaning effect. Secondly, microplastics are washed out of polymer textile clothing.
Bernd Nowack, Edgar Hernandez, and Denise Mitrano, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), Dübendorf, investigated how washing agents, water temperature, and the number and length of wash cycles affect the release of microfibers (size and mass) released from synthetic (polyester) textiles during simulated home washing under controlled laboratory conditions.
The team found that the quantity of fibers released by five different washing programs was always more or less constant. Washing agents and detergents increased the quantity of microfibers released compared with water. Washing temperature as well as duration of the wash cycles had no effect on the number of microfibers found in wastewater.
This is a first quantitative investigation of the release of microfibers from polyester textiles during washing. is that we are not yet able to explain. A follow-up study will systematically analyze different types of materials to understand how microfibers are generated in the washing machine.
- Polyester Textiles as a Source of Microplastic from Households: A Mechanistic Study to Understand Microfiber Release During Washing,
D. M. Mitrano, E Hernandez, B Nowack.
Environm. Sci. Technol. 2017