Questions for ‘Clothes dryers may be a major source of airborne microplastics’

a genderfluid teen wearing a black hoodie is loading a washing machine

Washing — and especially drying — the laundry can have an environmental impact that goes far beyond the amount of water and energy used.

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To accompany Clothes dryers may be a major source of airborne microplastics


Before Reading:

  1. When was the last time you cleaned a dryer’s lint filter or saw one cleaned? Briefly describe the appearance and texture of dryer lint. What do you think makes up individual dryer lint particles? What might cause dryer lint from two different laundry loads to differ in terms of appearance or texture?
  2. If you had to guess, what percentage of the lint produced by drying a load of laundry gets caught by lint traps? If lint does escape, where might it wind up? Identify three ways individual lint particles may differ from each other. What kinds of lint particles do you think may evade lint filters more easily?

During Reading:

  1. What “seemingly big” contributor to plastic pollution did scientists identify in 2011? What does the new Hong Kong study suggest might be an even bigger problem?
  2. What event inspired Kenneth Leung to investigate the potential role of dryers on microplastic pollution?
  3. Rachael Miller found something “weird” about the microfiber levels in the Hudson River. What did she expect to find? What did she find?
  4. On average, how many microfibers do Leung and his team estimate a single Canadian household dryer releases each year?
  5. Polyester produced more microfibers from big loads than small loads. But cotton made about the same number of microfibers, regardless of load size. Contrast cotton fibers with polyester fibers to explain this difference.
  6. What does Leung suggest could be done to reduce the amount of lint fibers escaping into the air?

After Reading:

  1. What does Rachael Miller mean when she says, “‘Away’ is not really away”? Come up with another substance or waste product to which this quote may also apply. Then, write a set of specific steps this waste product could pass through in which throwing this product away is not really sending it “away.”
  2. Often the answers from one scientific study lead to more questions. What new questions arise in response to the new findings on dryer lint?