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Divert and Capture

Project Manager - Ashley Morrison

ashley.morrison@gbf.org, 1-905-880-4945 x 6

This project is centred around keeping micro-pollutants, specifically microfibres out of Georgian Bay. Our work on this multi-year project includes the organization of outfitting hundreds of homes in the south-east Georgian Bay area with washing machine filters, studying the microfibres collected from those machines, and comparing the use of filters to the level of microfibre pollution in the lake. 

We also conduct several weekly shoreline cleanups during the summer, and host educational events throughout various Georgian Bay communities.

Microfibre Pollution in Georgian Bay

Microfibre pollution is the most prolific contaminant in the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay, and the most common source of microfibres are in-home washing machines. When we wash synthetic clothing or natural fibres that have been treated with chemical compounds, microfibres and plastic residue leaches off the clothing and into our wastewater. The fibres are too small to be captured in wastewater treatment plants, and so ends up in our lakes and rivers.

 

The extent of potential damage from microfibres remains to be seen, but so far, we know that the average household produces 1.45 million microfibres a week, that microfibres have been found in lakes throughout the world, and can also be found in rainwater samples, fish guts, and in human lungs, digestive systems, and bloodstreams.

 

We have no natural enzymes for breaking down these pollutants. We need to stop these pollutants at the source.

 

A proven solution

 

Scientific studies have shown that washing machine filters divert roughly 88% of microfibres released during laundering, and our previous study in collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Rochman Lab concluded that after 10% of homes in Parry Sound had filters installed, there was a 41% reduction of microfibre presence in the effluent from the town’s wastewater plant.

 

We began a multi-year follow-up study in 2021 in south-east Georgian Bay to further document the efficacy of washing machine filters and help stop pollution in the area. Nearly three-hundred homes have had filters installed, and we are currently in the data collection phase of this important project.

Want to Help Stop Microfibre Pollution?

Buy a microfibre filter

Change your habits

Write to your MPP

You can effectively stop the number-one contaminant in Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes with a simple filter. We recommend Filtrol 160. From their website: "The Filtrol uses a reusable mesh filter to stop microfiber pollution, removing non-biodegradable fibers (like microfibers, microplastics, polyester, nylon, sand, hair, and pet fur) from your washer’s discharge before they make their way into our lakes, streams, and drinking water. It’s unrivaled in its effectiveness. It’s easy to install and easy to clean."

There are some little things you can do on a regular basis that will help stop the spread of microfibres. Do laundry less often, wash on the cold setting, buy used clothing, or new clothing less frequently, and use a lint collector in your machine if you can't install a filter.

You can implore your local MPP to move forward on a bill that supports the mandated installation of filters on all newly-made washing machines, and express your concern for the environment. Visit this link to look up your local MPP and send them a customizable email template in support of these efforts. 

The Effects of Microplastic

Microplastics along with microfibres are  another big concern regarding pollution in Georgian Bay. When plastic ends up in the water, it begins the process of breaking down, but does not biodegrade, only reduces to microscopic particles that further pollute the water, rain, and air.

An excerpt from Lisa Erdle's article in Georgian Bay Forever's Winter 2018 Newsletter.

 

Lisa Erdle is a PhD student in the Rochman Lab at the University of Toronto.

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Given their ubiquity and small dimensions, the ingestion and impacts of microplastics are cause for concern. Over 220 species have been recorded as ingesting microplastics and include species ranging from microscopic, e.g., zooplankton, to megafauna, e.g., humpback whales. Microplastics also accumulate in food chains and reach humans through seafood consumption, e.g., mussels, fish and oysters. Effects of microplastics are far-reaching. Researchers have investigated the impacts of microplastics on gene expression, individual cells, survival, and reproduction. Mounting evidence shows that negative impacts can include decreased feeding and growth, endocrine disruption, decreased fertility, as well as other lethal and sub-lethal effects. While some effects are due to ingestion stress, e.g., physical blockage, many risks to ecosystems are associated with the chemicals in plastic, either added to plastic as ingredients in production or absorbed from “chemical cocktails” in the surrounding environment. Studies have shown that chemicals transfer to fish when they consume microplastics. When these fish end up on our dinner plates, we have the potential to increase the burden of hazardous chemicals in our bodies. However, it is unclear how microfibers may uniquely contribute to these contaminant burdens, since microfibers are often associated with distinct mixtures of chemicals used to manufacture fibers and clothing.

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Shoreline Cleanups

Stopping macroplastics from becoming microplastics in our water

With the generous help of volunteers, we hosted 33 shoreline cleanups in the southeast Georgian Bay area during the summer of 2022. Through those events, approximately 880 pounds of litter was collected from the shores. Imagine what Georgian Bay beaches would look like without these efforts made possible by our donors, and you'll know why this work is necessary. 

 

Further to the importance of cleaning our beach areas, this work diverts the plastic pollution from entering the lake, where it will inevitably break down over the course of centuries, continuously spreading microplastic

particles and degrading the health of the water.

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Left, a beach with no active cleanup services; Right, Sunset point in Collingwood where we host weekly shoreline cleanups

You can help too!

Volunteer to host your own shoreline cleanup with our help this fall or spring, or find out more about volunteering on our scheduled cleanups next summer.

You can also sign up for the Clean Water Education Programs for school and community groups. We can provide curriculum, host workshops, or schedule presentations.

Email Ashley.morrison@gbf.org 

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Coke can - over a decade old
Coke can - over a decade old

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Decades-old McDonalds coffee cup
Decades-old McDonalds coffee cup

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Old iPhone - version unknown
Old iPhone - version unknown

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Coke can - over a decade old
Coke can - over a decade old

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These are a few of our "trash treasures", perfect examples of how long most litter takes to biodegrade, and of course, in many instances the litter doesn't biodegrade at all. 

While the most common litter on our shores is cigarette butts and single-use plastics, we have also found decades-old cups, cans, bags, and even electronics in the water and between rocks on shore.

Thank you to these funders who have made this program possible.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change.
Ce projet a été realisé avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada agissant par l’entremise du ministère fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique.


Charles H. Ivey Foundation
Hodgson Family Foundation
JP Bickell Foundation
The LeVan Family
Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics
Great Lakes Local Action Fund
The Weston Family Foundation
Georgian Bay Forever donors

 

We also want to thank these valuable partners:
The Town of Collingwood
The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
Blue Mountain Watershed Trust
University of Toronto Trash Team

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