Microplastics are everywhere. Most microscopic plastic particles can be found in toothpaste, shampoo and make up, and these daily products pollute oceans and seas with the equivalent of twelve million plastic bags. Another source of microplastics that can be found in every household has received little attention so far: the washing machine. Or rather, the dirty laundry inside of it. Textiles containing plastic, such as polyester, release some invisible pieces of plastic when they are washed, and these pieces end up in waste water. Ironically, this happens the most with outdoorsy sports clothes such as fleece jackets and windbreakers, but also with socks. Researchers from the University of California estimated that a city of the size of Berlin releases the equivalent of 540,000 plastic bags in waste water on a daily basis through this pathway. Berlin-based start-up Guppy Friend saw this as a clear call to action. The team developed a completely recyclable wash bag that catches microplastics during the washing cycle. The plastic residues that remain in the bag can then be simply removed and disposed of in the trash.
For the Love of Nature… a Wash Bag
Guppy Friend founders Oliver Spieß and Alexander Nolte are passionate surfers and very in touch with nature. A few years ago, they realized that their own clothes contributed to plastic pollution in the sea and immediately started looking for a solution to the problem. And so Guppy Friend was created. The 70cm x 50cm sack is made of recyclable polymeric threads that are woven so tightly that even tiny plastic particles cannot escape, and are instead filtered by the bag. Therefore synthetic clothes can simply be placed in the bag and washed as usual. It usually takes a few laundry cycles before the residues need to be removed from the pouch.
Nolte and Spieß are aware that the best solution to the problem would be to avoid wearing clothes made of synthetic materials. But that goal is not attainable in the short term, and in the meantime they wish to reach a maximum of people with their technology. At the end of last year, they successfully raised 28,000 EUR with a Kickstarter campaign. This will allow them to mass produce the wash bags. They will cost around 30 EUR a piece. It may seem like a large price tag, but it allows Guppy Friend to operate sustainably. It takes five weeks to set up a weaving machine for Guppy Friend’s 2.5 metre wide fabric, because 62,500 threads must be woven by hand. These are hours of labour that must be paid at a fair rate, and the degradable material of the bags also doesn’t come cheap.
The founders are now also planning to create a “Zero Plastic School” with part of the benefits from the sale of the wash bags. The school will help raise awareness about pollution from microplastics and encourage people to avoid wearing synthetic clothes.
Translated from this article by Laura Wagener that was originally published on our German platform.