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Source: The New Haven Register

Kennedy backs passage of micro-plastic pollution measure

BY REGISTER STAFF

Posted: April 11, 2018
Originally Published: April 10, 2018

HARTFORD — State Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., D-Branford, led committee passage of a bill to reduce the growing problem of micro-plastic pollution in Connecticut’s waterways, according to a press release.

The release said S.B. 341, An Act Concerning Clothing Fiber Pollution, passed with broad bipartisan support, 25-5, and now heads to the Senate floor.

Microfibers are tiny pieces of plastic lint from synthetic clothing fabrics that are released in the washing machine during the normal washing cycle, with some garments shedding up to 2,000 microfibers per wash, the release said.

These microfibers are too small to be trapped by ordinary municipal wastewater treatment facilities, so they end up contaminating the state’s rivers, streams and Long Island Sound. Recent scientific studies demonstrate the presence of nearly 20,000 strands of plastic microfibers per square kilometer of lakes and coastal waterways, accounting for about 20 percent of waterborne plastic pollution, the release said.

“The dramatic increase of microfibers in our rivers and coastal waters represents an alarming environmental and public health issue,” said Kennedy in a statement. “Most consumers are not aware of how clothing fibers and microscopic pieces of plastic lint from synthetic fabrics are poisoning our waterways and food supply. Clothing manufacturers cannot continue to deny responsibility for the economic, environmental and public health costs of microplastic pollution. We need to engage the apparel industry to help our state to develop a consumer awareness and microfiber reduction action plan. I look forward to working in collaboration with the clothing industry to identify solutions and best practices.”

The press release said the bill calls for creation of a working group of representatives of the clothing industry and environmental community, to develop a consumer education and awareness campaign and report its recommendations to the Environment Committee before the start of the next session in January 2019, so the General Assembly can consider a more fully-informed response, the release said.

Kristen Kern, government relations representative for the American Apparel and Footwear Association, expressed some initial concerns about the bill but said the apparel industry is ready to join the working group and help develop possible solutions.

“Our members are committed to creating safe and high-quality products for their consumers in a safe and responsible manner. That increasingly includes use and end of life analyses and best practices to limit any harmful impact of garments on the environment. For years, individual companies and trade associations have been participating in microfiber task forces and collaborating with researchers to study and engage on the topic of microfiber pollution,” said Kern in a statement.

Professor Chelsea Rochman, of the University of Toronto and a leading expert on micro-plastic pollution, testified in support of the bill. She said in the release that billions of microfibers are discharged into the nation’s waterways each day and “[M]any studies have demonstrated that clothing made from synthetic textiles…shed microfibers in the wash - thus contributing to the growing accumulation of microplastics in nature.”

The release said the bill is supported by many of Connecticut’s leading environmental advocacy organizations, including The Nature Conservancy and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and received supportive public testimony from nearly 150 activists across the state, one of the largest responses to any environmental bill before the Committee this session.