Today’s Solutions: September 25, 2022

Every time you wash your clothes in a washing machine, small microfibers and microplastics are released into wastewater and eventually make their way to our water systems. Fortunately, PlanetCare is here to catch these polluting particles so you can do laundry with a little more peace of mind. 

Mojca Zupan founded PlanetCare after seeing the true extent of microplastic pollution while viewing The Plastic Garbage Project. Solutions for catching microplastics produced by washing machines existed, but Zupan wanted them to be implemented on a much larger scale. PlanetCare’s pollution-catching device is about the size of a water bottle and easily attaches to household washing machines to intercept microfibers. 

So how does it work? The device essentially operates as a filter. It has nozzles on each end that attach to the water hose and drain of a washing machine. Its internal mesh filter can capture particles as small as 0.1 millimeters, meaning it successfully traps 90 percent of the microparticles that would typically flow into our water systems. 

Designing microfiber capture systems is difficult because we don’t fully understand the extent of the textile microfiber crisis. Some studies estimate that one item of clothing sheds 2,000 microfibers during a wash cycle, others say it could be up to 700,000. These unseen polluters contribute to the estimated 12 to 21 million metric tons of microplastics near the surface of the Atlantic alone. 

To expand the reach of their technology, PlanetCare is working with European laundry machine manufacturers to potentially install the technology in all commercially sold machines. Collaborating with manufacturers would be the most efficient way to scale up this solution and in some countries, it will soon be required by law. France has passed a law mandating that all new washing machines come with filters for microplastics starting in 2025. 

For now, if you want to make your laundry routine greener, you can purchase a PlanetCare starter pack with the device and seven filter cartridges for $112. Each filter lasts about 20 wash cycles and when the filters are full, customers simply mail them back to PlanetCare where the team is working on repurposing the collected material into car upholstery and sound insulation panels.

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