Every time we do laundry, fibres shed off our clothes - microscopic synthetic pieces that end up in our waterways and eventually on our plates. Now, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, the Cora Ball is here to help.
Whether it's a pure cotton shirt or a polyester jacket: every time you do laundry, your clothes shed fibres that flow into the waste water and then back into our waterways. When it comes to synthetic fabrics it's particularly problematic, because the fibres break down into microscopic pieces of plastic - microplastics - that are thought to both damage marine ecosystems and pose serious risk to human health.
And even biodegradable cotton fibres aren't always completely safe either. Often the textiles have been treated with toxic chemicals or dyed, and these toxic substances find their way into our water, unflitered, via the washed out fibres.
We recently wrote about Guppy Friend: a bag you can put your laundry into while washing, that's made from a tightly woven fabric that catches even the smallest textile fibres. However, the issue with the Guppy Friend is that the bag isn't big enough for a whole load of laundry, but just for the synthetic items that go into your wash. But now the team behind the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean have developed a device that can be placed in any washing machine, on any kind of cycle, in order to pick up the loose fibres: Cora Ball.
This statement from the Rozalia Project's executive director might sound extreme, but it's not wrong. A study published last year in Environmental Science and Technology showed that each wash of a polyester fleece jacket shed up to two grams of microfibres (that's about the same weight as a big paper clip).
And these tiny synthetic polymers now make up approximately 85 per cent of the human-caused debris that washes up on shorelines around the world - according to another study from 2011.
Design Inspired by Nature
The technology behind the Cora Ball is inspired by the behaviour of natural coral: water flows through coral and it cleverly filters all of the tiny particles out that it can make use of. The Cora Ball imitates this behaviour by - during the wash cycle - catching the fibres that are shed.
When the cycle has finished, the fibres caught by the ball can be taken out and thrown in the bin.
The team behind Cora Ball claim that if every tenth North American started using the Cora Ball in their laundry, they'd be able to stop the equivalent of 30 million plastic water bottles ending up in our waterways.
And now there's a chance for that to become reality, because thanks to a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, the Cora Ball is now going into production. The ball itself is made of 100 per cent recycled plastic, can be completely recycled itself and is produced cost-effectively via 3D printing. That means that theoretically the ball can be produced in any kind of size and could also be used in industrial cleaning plants and textile factories.
In the long term, the Rozalia Project team want to find a solution for what to do with all the fibres that end up in the Cora Ball. But, as they themselves say, "For now the trash is much better than the nearest river, lake or bay."
To check out the Cora Ball up close, see the video below.
This is a translation by Marisa Pettit of the original article which first appeared on RESET's German-language site.