Sherbrooke / University of Sherbrooke.

The team of CLIN are looking to reduce microplastics in the water supply by going after them in a novel place: your dryer.

CLIN team member Jean-Claude Chartrand said about 35 percent of the microplastics released into the world come from clothes, making them the largest single source of microplastic pollution. The breakdown of synthetic fibres like polyester in the drying cycle get released into the air where, once they settle, they are carried away by rain and into our water systems.

Once they enter the water systems, they enter the food supply where the plastics are eaten by aquatic animals and eventually ingested by people.

So, CLIN want to produce filters to catch microplastics to keep them from ever escaping the dryer.

“What we are proposing is a new air filter technology that would capture the microparticles, but also the filter will be self-cleaning,” Chartrand said. “At a basic level it is just to reduce the filter size to capture particles, but at the same time to be self-cleaning, and have good airflow to not make the dryer overheat.”

They foresee having to proceed in two steps. First, they want to produce a filter system that can be used by industrial washing operations, places like laundromats and hotels where laundry is done on a large scale. This would require municipalities or other governments to impose regulations on the biggest producers of microplastic pollution.

“You want to go from the big emitters first, and then sort of start there,” Chartrand said. With bigger industries, he added, “you want to be able to establish that there’s a solution to this problem.”

They then hope to be able to create a product that can first be installed in the next generation of consumer dryers, and later develop a universal or adaptable filter system that can be installed on dryers already on the market.

Chartrand said there haven’t been too many studies but, of those that have been carried out, it’s been demonstrated that dryers release about 2.5 times more microplastics than are released in a washing cycle.