Plastic pollution happens in the laundry, too

According to the Federal Office for the Environment the biggest sources of microplastic pollution in Switzerland are car tyres, plastic films and other products used in construction and agriculture. But plastic is also released into the environment every time synthetic textiles are washed.

This content was published on August 6, 2020 minutes

Scientists at the Federal Laboratories for Material Testing and Research analysed the release of microplastic fibres (MPFs) through the washing of polyester textiles. Despite making up a smaller portion of overall plastic pollution, these MPFs are a significant factor for surface waters, states the environment office.

The researchers at EMPA laundered a dozen synthetic fabric swatches multiple times to figure out how many MPFs were coming out in the washing machine. This allowed them to compare the behaviour of various fabric types and finishes.

Although water treatment plants are very efficient in filtering out MPFs and other particles, they are unable to capture all of them. The effects of microplastics on the environment and human health are the subject of much concern and research.

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?