Media Releases



Cold is cool when it comes to laundry, and our oceans will thank you for doing your part to reduce microplastics pollution. Every time you wash synthetic fabrics in the laundry, tiny plastic microfibres break off into the water, contributing to the hundreds of tonnes of microplastics released into rivers and oceans every year."People are becoming more and more aware of microplastics, but relatively few of us know that everyday laundry is one of the leading sources of these tiny particles in the world's oceans," said Richard Stewart, chair of Metro Vancouver's Liquid Waste Committee. "Once released into the oceans, microplastics are nearly impossible to remove, becoming part of the food chain, and potentially harming aquatic life."Every year, in Canada and the USA, about 880 tonnes of microfibres are released as a result of doing laundry, according to an estimate by Ocean Wise — the equivalent weight of 10 blue whales.The good news is that by simply washing in cold water you can reduce microfibre shedding by up to 50 per cent. Washing in hot water, by contrast, causes clothes to break down more quickly at the microscopic level, leading to the shedding and release of more microfibres.Microfibres are pieces of fibre — less than five millimetres in size and thinner than a human hair — that are shed from fabrics when they are washed. While synthetic microfibres are the biggest concern, natural materials like cotton also shed microfibres when washed."Metro Vancouver continues to collaborate with Ocean Wise and UBC to better understand how microfibres affect ecosystems and what may be done to address it," said Sav Dhaliwal, chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors. "Thankfully, there are simple ways everyone can reduce this pollution at the source."In addition to water temperature, many other factors contribute to microfibre shedding, including how the clothes are made and treated. New clothes generally shed the most microfibres the first few times they are washed, so going longer between washes or buying second-hand items may also help.Metro Vancouver is participating in various microfibres research initiatives, including the UBC Microplastics Cluster, and is part of the Microfiber Partnership, a research initiative that brings together researchers, the apparel industry and governments, and is supporting the development of standardized methods to quantify and track microfibres in wastewater.Visit to learn more about the issue and what you can do to help.