700,000 plastic microfibers come off synthetic garments when they go into a machine. By coming off, these fibers pass through the filters of the washing machines, which are not equipped to retain these microparticles. Since wastewater treatment plants do not have the capacity to filter them, they end up in sewage and, therefore, in the oceans. These fibers finally finish their course in the organism of marine animals.
Microfilter clothes washing devices
In 2005, Brian Koski of Wexco Environmental Inc., Milaca, Minnesota developed the Filtrol 160 attachable filter which removes non-biodegradable materials and fibers, such as lint,hair, pet fur, sand, food and other debris, from a washing machine discharge. Filtrols are now in use problem in thousands of homes, businesses, and residential properties across the USA.
In 2008, keen surfers, Alexander Nolte and Oliver Spies co-founded of LANGBRETT GmbH specializing in environmentally friendly surf, skate and outdoor apparel with retail stores in Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt.
Concerned with micro-particle pollution, they conceived of a plastic filter bag specially designed to retain these particles during a clothes wash. Nolte and Spies worked with German research institute Fraunhofer to test and vet the bag’s design and material.
They settled on polyamide, also known as nylon, that does not shed synthetic fibers easily. It is made with a 50-micron mesh, a width that allows soapy water to enter the bag without allowing fibers to leave. They trade named their patented innovation the Guppyfriend.
Guppyfriend attracted the attention of Patagonia, the American clothing company, Greener Grazing program at Australis Aquaculture when word about the project reached Phil Graves, managing director of Tin Shed Ventures, Patagonia’s investment fund. Patagonia already had a relationship with LANGBRETT, which sells Patagonia clothing.
They received early prototypes of the bag and tested them with the UCSB researchers they had worked with on their fiber loss study. They confirmed that the bag trapped anywhere from 90-95% of fibers. When the bag is removed from the washer at the end of a cycle, the fiber – visible against the white mesh – can be removed by hand and disposed of. Tests show that the bag remains functional and intact after hundreds of washings.
Since then, Nolte and Spies are also working on reducing microfiber losses before the fabric reaches the laundry room. They are working with Deutsche Textilforschungszentrum, a German standards body, to create a metric that will show the rate and amount of fiber losses of a given textile. They hope clothing designers will choose fabrics that aren’t prone to shedding. (en.guppyfriend.com)
In Ljubljana, Slovenia, a team led by Mojca Zupan and her engineer Hakim El Khiar have developed the PlanetCare washing machine filter. PlanetCare filters are available worldwide from an online shop. Every user receives a filter, replacement cartridges, a hose, a mount, and a small counter of wash cycles.
After the initial installation, the user will need to replace a full cartridge after approximately 20 wash cycles. After installing the last new cartridge, they return the used cartridges to PlanetCare for recycling (cartridges come in a returnable box with prepaid postage) who will send you a new set.
A commercial PlanetCare filter is designed for the service industry. Laundromats, hotels, hospitals, marinas: wherever washing machines operate 24 hours a day. This filter has been tested and approved by four renowned institutions: University of Slovenia, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), the Swedish Environmental Agency and a washing machine manufacturer.
As of January 1, 2025, based on a decree passed by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, all new washing machines must be fitted with microplastic filters, while manufacturers would obtain an environmental bonus if they transitioned before 2025.
What you can do: Use one of these filter to help reduce microfiber pollution.
Discover Solution 284: 99Recycle
Support 366solutions on Patreon and receive the ‘366solutions Insider Newsletter’ with updates on the monthly progress and successes of published solutions.