Interest in reducing the amount of microfibers – small bits of plastic or other material found in waterways and oceans in waterways – has led to a number of proposals that specifically target clothes washer manufacturers. There are many sources of microfibers, including tires, clothing and textiles. While clothing is not the largest source of microfibers, a primary element of policies proposed so far is to require manufacturers to install filters on clothes washers that are designed to capture microfibers during the wash cycle.
AHAM recognizes the need to reduce microfibers and has worked with NSF International on testing to explore the effectiveness of filters as part of the solution. The testing results showed that the filters would be largely ineffective, capturing only 25 percent of microfibers estimated to have been released during the wash cycle. The filters also created several problems, including, in some cases, doubling the amount of water needed per cycle. Clogs in the filters were common, creating a household flooding risk.
Even supporters of microfiber filters have acknowledged the challenges that would come with mandating filters on clothes washers. California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have required washers sold in the state to have microfiber filters by 2025. France, which has an economy as large as California’s, attempted to implement a similar law. The law was delayed several times and implementation was ultimately put on hold because certain challenges, including the flooding risk and ineffective filtering, have not been overcome.
AHAM acknowledges that microfibers are a problem that needs to be addressed and is willing to work toward that goal. However, in-line clothes washer filters are ineffective, inefficient and will be a step backward in the pursuit of cleaner waterways and greater efficiency.