QUEEN'S PARK — NDP MPPs Ian Arthur (Kingston and the Islands) and Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale) will introduce a bill to prohibit the sale of washing machines not equipped with a filter that reduces the shed of microfibers into soil and water systems.
"The most common type of microplastic, microfibers shed from our clothes into washing machines, which release, per load, anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of microfibers into our waterways and Great Lakes," said Arthur. "This dangerous plastic pollution contaminates our drinking water, harms wildlife, and can leach into the surrounding environment."
The MPPs' bill would amend the Environmental Protection Act to ensure washing machines not equipped with a filter for removing microplastics no longer be sold.
Arthur and Bell spoke to the importance of the bill in a press conference Monday, joined by Lisa Erdle, a University of Toronto PhD candidate who studies the effects of microfibers on the environment, and David Sweetnam, director of the charity Georgian Bay Forever, which works to protect the aquatic ecosystem.
"If we truly want to protect Canada and Ontario's lakes from harmful microplastics pollution, the Ford government must pass our bill to install microfilters on washing machines," said Bell.
"For our environment and for the health and safety of all Ontarians, let's get these important microfilters installed."
The MPPs will introduce their bill Tuesday in the legislature.
Lisa Erdle, PhD candidate at the University of Toronto who studies the environmental impacts of microfibers:
"Washing machine filters work. When we tested these filters in the lab, we saw significant reductions in microfibers. Our study showed that washing machine filters capture an average of 87% of microfibers. Washing machines aren’t the ONLY source of microfibers to the environment, but we know it is a major source. Other sources include dryers, carpets, and cigarette butts. We also know that washing machine filters would go a long way to keep microfibers from going down the drain."
David Sweetnam, Executive director of Georgian Bay Forever:
"We know that microfibers are an issue for Georgian Bay, as they are for other parts of the Great Lakes and other water bodies beyond. Studies in the Great Lakes show microplastic and foam ingestion contamination in some bird and fish species. Microplastics are found around the globe in the stomachs of fish, birds, oysters, mussels, freshwater snails, sea turtles, and other organisms.
When ingested, wildlife is also exposed to the coatings on or additive chemicals in the microfibres that can also leach into or be absorbed from the surrounding environment. Washing machine filters used to be common in North America, and are common in other countries, like Japan.