Washing machines polluting our lake

Sixth-graders Sarah, Bode and Gwynn assemble microfiber catchers.

Last year we, the Microfiber Fighters, learned a startling fact: Our washing machines are sending billions of microplastics into Lake Erie. The less than 1 mm particles come from all the synthetic materials that go into our clothes, such as fleeces and yoga pants.

As a team we decided to experiment and see if by using common household items we could capture the particles prior to them being discharged into our wastewater system, then into Lake Erie, and then into our drinking water and even into the walleye and perch we eat.

We tried Velcro dots inside a wiffle ball, then we tried hair rollers inside a dog toy, looking for an even better solution. Thinking that maybe we were not getting enough water flow through the ball we thought the dog toy, with its larger holes, would be the solution but that was not the answer either.

Looking for the particles with the aid of a loupe we noticed that a number of them were sticking to the rubber toy. That led us to think of a rubber (latex) balloon inserted into the ball. Success! Using the loupe we found a doubling in the number of microplastics captured. We ran this experiment a number of times and each time the whiffle ball or dog toy with a balloon partially inflated inside gave the best result.

A prominent Cleveland surgeon has stated, “We don’t know what the consequences of these plastic particles are to our bodies.” A big concern, but we think we can help reduce these microplastics by having you turn your washing machine to the delicate cycle and using a ball such as a large wiffle ball with a latex balloon inserted.

Note: The Microfiber Fighters are the U.S. Army eCyberMission Challenge Ohio State Champions and are one of three North Central Region Finalists for their research and project. Each will receive a $2,000 savings bond. Sarah, Bode and Gwynn are members of B.S.A. Explorer Club 360 sponsored by Bay Sea Scouts Inc. For details in joining our co-educational crew please contact Richard Gash at joinseascouts@gmail.com.

Sarah Knox, Bode McDougal and Gwynn Miller

Sarah Knox and Bode McDougal attend Rocky River and Gwynn Miller Bay Village Middle Schools.

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Volume 11, Issue 9, Posted 2:11 PM, 05.06.2019