While cotton is a natural product, materials like polyester, nylon, acrylics, and spandex are not, and each time we wash them they “shed” a lot of microplastics. As a matter of fact, one washing cycle can produce as many as 700,000 plastic microfibers. While some wastewater treatment plants do try to filter out these microplastics, this isn’t the case for all wastewater treatment plants around the world and they are actually not that effective. Attempting to extract microplastics from waste water is the same as trying to take out the eggs after you’ve baked the cake, although I guess in the case of waste water that would be a pretty disgusting cake, but you get my point. Once again the answer lies in catching as many of the microplastics at the source as possible, or in other words decentralize the solution.
That is where the aptly named startup company Micro Catch comes in. The company has come up with a great way to significantly reduce the problem at the source, directly at the washing machine. Its solution is a new kind of smart filter that can either be integrated or added onto existing washing machines. The final product will be a two stage filter, but the single stage prototype already filters as much as 80% of the microfibers. Hopefully one day these kinds of filters will be found everywhere. The company hopes to finalize its 2-stage proof of concept within the next year and a half.