ALL washing machines must be fitted with filters to stop plastic fibres from our clothes polluting rivers and oceans, according to the boss of a Yorkshire technology firm.
Christian Cullinane, the managing director of consumer brands at Xeros Technologies, will tell a major global conference that plastic fibres like nylon and polyester present a major environmental challenge.
Mr Cullinane, who is due to speak at the Rising Tide Summit in Los Angeles in the US, warned that every load of laundry sends hundreds of thousands of fibre fragments down the drain, making it one of the biggest sources of microplastic pollution in the ocean.
So many fibres are ending up in the sea that creatures are mistaking them for food, according to Mr Cullinane.
Mr Cullinane wants all new washing machines to have microfibre filters installed as standard.
“The world needs to wake up to this.” said Mr Cullinane. “It’s not just an inconvenient truth that we’re all slowly feeding our clothes to fish, but this could also be a health time bomb.
“What if we discover that eating fish contaminated with synthetic fibres from our clothes causes cancer or liver disease? But we don’t need to wait to find that out to know that it’s bad thing.
“We just need to stop the fibres ever getting out of the washing machine. The only thing that’s stopping it happening is ignorance and indifference.”
Mr Cullinane’s company, the Rotherham-based Xeros Technologies, produces filters that are designed to be installed in washing machines during the manufacturing process.
The filters can catch 99 per cent of all the microfibres that would otherwise be rinsed out with the dirty water.
It then dries them, so disposal is like taking fluff out of a dryer.
The company is in discussions with several leading manufacturers about its technologies.
Mr Cullinane continued: “Dryers have always had filters to trap fluff from our clothes, so why don’t we have them in washing machines?
“Most people I speak to agree that putting filters in washing machines would be a great way to tackle this.
He added: “But I don’t see companies rushing to put them in their products. We need to ask why not?
“Every day we are putting vast quantities of plastic fibres into the ocean.
“Globally, it’s the equivalent of every person on the planet throwing 15 plastic shopping bags into the sea every year, and because the US is worse than average it’s like every American putting 52 plastic bags straight into the ocean.
He added: “That’s one bag a week for every American. It has to stop.”
Mr Cullinane will be speaking at the Rising Tide Summit in Los Angeles which brings together industry leaders and bosses from non-governmental organisations to find ways of protecting the oceans for future generations.
More than 30 speakers are due to attend the summit including Matt Mulrennan, the director of Ocean Initiative, Emma Rose-Cohen, the CEO of The Last Straw; and Liane Thompson, the CEO of Aquaai.
Rotherham-based Xeros Technology is a spin-out from Leeds University.
The firm makes polymer spheres that can be used in specially designed washing machines to replace most of the water.