A new filter for washing machines aims to capture microplastics before they enter the water system
Spotted: More people seem to be waking up to the problem of microplastics. When clothes made from synthetic fibres are washed, millions of tiny particles of plastic are released into drains, through water treatment plants and out into our rivers, lakes and oceans, where they cause great damage. A Slovenian startup, PlanetCare, has come up with a way to remove microplastics before they go down the drains.
PlanetCare has developed a filter which can be attached to a washing machine, and which can catch around 90 per cent of the fibres shed from clothes. The cartridges need to be changed monthly, and the used ones can be sent back to PlanetCare, which cleans and returns them to customers. PlanetCare has plans to recycle the microplastics it collects in the cartridges, back into the backing material used in car upholstery.
The company offers a subscription service for around $11 (€9.90) a month, and customers receive a filter with seven months’ worth of cartridges. PlanetCare is working to create a range of filters that will fit existing washing machines and is also negotiating with appliance manufacturers to install built-in filters. They are also developing an industrial filter for larger laundry facilities.
PlanetCare’s chief scientist, Andrej Kržan, has described the company’s approach as: “based on the fact that it is better to stop pollution at the source, which is the washing machine. At that point we have fibres not mixed with organic matter and other things, but in a relatively clean stream of water. Once you get fibres in the environment, I can’t imagine any way to get them back.”
PlanetCare is not the only company working to tackle microplastics. Several companies are developing filters for washing machines, or to catch fibres inside the drum. At Springwise, we have covered a number of innovations in this area, including a system which uses sound waves to capture microplastics and a filter made from jellyfish mucus.