Removing microplastics from the laundry has just gotten easier, with an easy to install device that does not require the purchase of filters
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Spotted: Microplastics are now ubiquitous almost everywhere on Earth. In October 2020, scientists in Australia published a study estimating that there are now 18 to 24 shopping bags full of small plastic fragments for every foot of coastline on every continent except Antarctica. Since then, microplastics have been found in Antarctica. Microplastics come from a variety of sources, but many come from synthetic fibres that are stripped from clothes by friction and turbulence in the washing machine.
Luckily, there is something we can do about microplastics from clothing. Startup Gulp has developed a filter that attaches to the washing machine wastewater outlet and removes microplastics, allowing residual ‘clean’ water to disappear down the drain as normal. Unlike some other filters, which need to be attached during manufacture or by a plumber, Gulp can be installed by anyone. The device can also be placed on top of or at the side of the washing machine, eliminating the need to relocate or move the appliance.
According to the company, the filter captures more than 90 per cent of all microfibres—down to 1.2 microns in size—from wastewater streams without the use of disposables, cartridges, or replaceable components. It is compatible with all powder and liquid detergents and lasts for around 20 washes before needing to be emptied.
Gulp’s founder, Adam Root, is a former Dyson engineer and a keen scuba diver. He began with a £250 grant from the Prince’s Trust, which he used to take apart a washing machine, explaining “that’s when I had my ‘eureka’ moment.” Root explains that “The technology is unique in that the system does not use any consumables or have disposable parts. The system self-cleans (regenerates) using the filtered wastewater, enabling the microfibres to be collected and emptied once a month.
The realisation that microplastics have moved from the environment into the bodies of animals and humans has given new urgency to the drive to tackle the problem. In addition to washing machine filtration, other innovations covered here include the use of silk as a replacement for plastics in industrial products and the use of a biopolymer derived from apples to remove nanoplastics from water.
Written By: Lisa Magloff