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14 February 2017

Innovative laundry bag saves food chains from polluting microfibres

Two German inventors have invented a laundry bag to prevent shedding microfibres polluting oceans. 

Alexander Nolte an Oliver Spies – co-owners of the German surf retailer Langbrett – were inspired to create the bag in response to reports of microfibre pollution.

Synthetic textiles, for example fleece jackets, release tiny plastic fibres into wastewater during washing which eventually end up in river, lakes and oceans.

The size of microfibres means they are not filtered out at sewage treatment plants and unlike natural fibres, such as cotton and wool, they do not biodegrade over time.

They are also prone to binding with molecules of harmful chemical pollutants found in wastewater, such as pesticides or flame retardants.

According to a research from the University of California, a city of 100,000 inhabitants releases a wash-related volume of microfibres equivalent to 15,000 plastic bags every day, a city the size of Berlin may be responsible for more than 500,000 plastic bags.

Furthermore, aquatic organisms consume these fibres, which can lead to gastrointestinal infections and blockages, reproductive problems and starvation.

Studies have revealed that plankton and other small organisms that have consumed microfibres have suffered health problems as a result; this can also have problems further up the food chain.

Nolte stated:  “We said, ‘either we have to stop selling fleece [apparel] or we have to think of a solution’. So we went out to our beer garden and said ‘what can we do?’”

The “Guppy Friend” is a mesh laundry bag capable of capturing shedding fibres as clothes are spun.

The fabric bag, made of a specially-designed micro-filter material captures 99 per cent of fibres released in the washing process; the captured fibres can then be properly disposed of in the bin.

According to tests, the Guppy Friend remains functional and intact after hundreds of washes.

Nolte and Spies received financial support – €100,000 ($108,000) – from outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, to develop the product and its supply chain.

Further support came from the pair’s Kickstarter campaign running from October to December last year, raising €28,640 ($30,604) from 668 backers.

Nolte and Spies are now looking to reduce microfibre losses before the fabric reaches the washing machine, through using higher quality fabrics that are less prone to shedding.

The pair hopes that more awareness surrounding microfibre pollution will convince brands and consumers to curb the sale of high-shed synthetic materials.

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Image Source: Kickstarter

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