Clothes Washer Filter Requirement Will Hand Consumers a Mess, Set Efficiency Back
A bill that could soon become law in California will require clothes washers sold in the state to be fitted with cumbersome filters that will result in higher water usage, more plastic being added to the environment, and a potentially harmful mess for consumers to clean up.
The California bill, AB 1628, has been sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom after passing the state senate. The filters it would require are intended to capture microfibers, tiny bits of material that break off from clothing and textiles during a wash cycle. While the bill was created with the good intention of keeping microfibers out of the state’s waterways, independent testing has found that the filters will have the following harmful effects:
- Adding plastic into the environment: Testing conducted by NSF International found that it would take 13 years—longer than the average useful life of a typical clothes washer—for a filter to capture an amount of plastic equal to the amount used to create the filter.
- Additional cost: The filter requirement could increase the cost of clothes washers by hundreds of dollars, hurting low-income consumers the most.
- Low rate of effectiveness: Testing by NSF found filters often only capture approximately 25 percent of microfibers estimated to have been released during a typical wash cycle.
- Increased energy and water use: Testing found that the filters significantly increased the time and energy required to wash a load of clothes.
- Accessibility issues: Microfiber filters are not engineered for all clothes washer models and may not be possible in many home configurations. People with disabilities may be challenged to clean and change the filters, both of which will be regularly required to avoid flooding.
- Exposure to harmful substances: Consumers will be required to scrape the captured debris, including bodily substances, from filters to prevent clogging and potential flooding. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that contaminated textiles and fabrics often contain high numbers of microorganisms from organic substances, including blood, skin, stool, urine, vomitus and others.
An August 21 Los Angeles Times editorial noted some of the problems the microfiber filters will create, stating “Filters for the wash get gummed up pretty quickly with hair, soap and fabric softener and would have to be emptied as often as every wash to avoid clogs that interrupt
washing cycles. And they must be cleaned without using water, or that just moves the release of microfibers from one drain to the other, as well as increasing water usage.”
France has just withdrawn its own law requiring microfiber filters on clothes washers after numerous technical and engineering challenges led to significant delays in implementation. A decision by Gov. Newsom is expected by October 14. A veto by Gov. Newsom can spare Californians from these challenges and reopen the conversation about effective ways to address the microfiber issue.
For media, please call or email Jill Notini, VP Communications & Marketing at 202-872-5955 ext 318 or [email protected].
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) is the trade association representing manufacturers of major, portable and floor care home appliances and suppliers to the industry. AHAM is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and maintains an office in Ottawa. AHAM is the single voice providing the home appliance industry and its customers leadership, advocacy and a forum for action — developing and implementing credible solutions for public policy, standards and business decisions. You can visit AHAM’s web site at http://www.aham.org or follow us on Twitter @AHAM_Voice and @AHAM_Policy.