The largest source of plastic in our fresh water is laundry lint

Originally published at:


and the solution is what? wash clothes less, only wear cotton, improve the treatment plants, or what?


Quit wearing recycled plastic aka polartec fleece is a good start.
Which kinda sucks as it is a nice and useful clothing material.


Hurray, another reason not to do laundry today! But on the serious side, maybe we could improve the traps in the washing machines?


The trick there would be to find a filter that traps microscopic particles and still has enough of a flow rate to be useful without being huge.

Plenty of lint also ends up at least temporarily in the atmosphere, from the dryer. It’s hard to say how much that travels or if any ends up in waterways.


The battle ‘against’ plastics is long since lost.

Since the beginning of the plastics revolution in 1950 or so we have produced enough plastic to cover every square inch of the entire landmass of the earth with a .004" thick layer of plastic.
In 10 years, it will just about double.

And oall of it is continuing to degrade particle by particle every second.

Another way to look at it:
Just the production of ABS (the most commonly used plastic) in one year could build a wall 10 feet wide and 20 feet tall ACROSS THE ENTIRE US EAST TO WEST.

We’re screwed.

Oh, and outlawing straws?
What a joke!
How many straws worth of plastic does it take to equal ONE of those use-a-couple-years-and-toss resin lawn chairs?
We pick at nits while the steamroller flattens us.


laundry lint!


Plastic microfibers should respond to an electric field. Maybe an electrical affinity filter would be effective, much like the electrical field particulate filters in HVAC systems:


Water and electricity don’t mix. Maybe a reverse osmosis system would.

The problem with saving the environment is not that we don’t have the technology, it’s just no one wants to pay for it.


There is no easy solution. If we’re going to wear only cotton (or any natural fibre), well, it’s a very water-intensive crop - meaning that we need to use more water and convert more land area to production, likely use more pesticides. Is this better on the whole for species and ecosystems?

The environmental impacts of microplastics are still unclear. Aside from high visibility cases of marine animals turning up choked with macroplastics, we don’t really know what effect microplastics are having - they may be more symbolic of the anthropocene than anything.

There is apparently a wash-bag that reduces the escape of micro-fibres:

ETA: Hope this doesn’t come across as not caring or hiding behind the complexity of the issue as an excuse not to act.


I was thinking of a tank, not an in-flow system. Such things exist for other purposes, like lab water or water-for-injection.

When the washing machine finishes a cycle, dump the water into a holding tank with insulative valves and run the filter to trap the microfibers in a series of plates or mesh. Dump tank into waste water.


Like a giant french press?


In either case might have to compare costs to just not wearing plastics.


More like an electrolytic trash compactor. :wink:

That’s a negative, Ghostrider. There’s a saying that overlaps most of my hobbies: cotton kills.


Not spinning fire then?

Natural fibers, when burnt, simply turn to ash as they burn.

Synthetic, non-aramid fibers, melt as they burn. This is the main concern with clothing and costumes for fire performers. When you’re performing, if a synthetic fabric catches and starts to burn, it will melt, drip, and fuse to your skin as it does so causing intense burns. Your main goal as a fire performer is to avoid this at all costs.



Hiking, fishing, paddling, cross-country skiing…you know, pursuits where heatstroke and hypothermia can occur in the same day. I was once hypothermic on a 95-deg F day in the high desert. I made the mistake of wearing jeans under my waders while wading a 40 deg F stream. When I crawled out of the river, my lips were blue and my fingernails were a delightful shade of violet.


A beautiful wall?


Ah yes. That makes sense. Deserts are tricky like that. Back in my Burning Man days folks would lay down to watch the stars and the ground would suck the heat out of them crazy fast just like that stream did to you.

ETA to get back on topic. People have a wide range of clothing needs (including safety) and so it is pretty unlikely that plastics will be removed from all clothing but better more responsible filtration is doable.


That’s why most of my wardrobe is made from organically-sourced bison. (Unless I’m going to a formal event, in which case I’ll break out the Grizzly.)



The solution to this isn’t that difficult. Commercial laundry waste already goes thru a lint interceptor. (Zurn and Josam both manufacture them if you want to see one.) These could be redesigned and placed under the residential washers. Increase the drain line from 1-1/4" to 2" inch and run it thru the interceptor base before discharging to the sanitary system or septic tank.

Now we only need legislators that give a crap about the environment.