by Lilly Wang
Lint, that dusty grey stuff that collects in your dryer, has recently been garnering some attention…
The EPA lists dryer lint as safe for composting, claiming that only biodegradable/natural fibers from cotton or wool clothing break down in the wash. According to the US Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, putting polyester or synthetic clothes in the dryer yields “little, if any, lint since these materials do not break down in the washing and drying cycles as natural fibers do.”
… Wait a minute, so only cotton and wool clothing produces lint? Here at TuftsRecycles! we tested this claim. We washed and dried a load of laundry consisting of only fleece blankets, fleece jackets, and nylon clothes – all fabrics made of synthetic materials. Look what we found:
So what’s the big deal…? A recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology found that washing a single fleece produces 2,000 micro-fibers of micro-plastics, tiny bits of polyester and acrylic debris measuring less than 1-millimeter that make up 65% of plastic pollution. The majority of plastic pollution is invisible, but it can carry harmful effects.
Dr. Mark Browne, a post-doc fellow at the University College of Dublin, conducted a study looking at the accumulation of micro-plastic debris on shorelines worldwide. He and his colleagues found that every beach they tested (18 beaches on 6 continents worldwide) contained micro-plastics in the sand, 80% of which was synthetic fibrous material coming from clothing. Nowadays, most clothing is synthetic, and the lint that comes out of drying these clothes is basically a ball of micro-plastics.
So until further research is conducted, we think it’s best to hold off on composting dryer lint and keeping it out of the soil.