Can you catch the plastic?

Did you know that a city the size of Berlin releases plastic fibers equivalent to 540 000 plastic bags every single day, just by washing clothes? We now know that micro-plastics, once they make their way into water bodies, attract bacteria and pollution. Thus they find their way up the food chain through phytoplankton and then into the fish and seafood we eat. So micro-plastics is a huge problem right now and needs to be solved.

Together with SIWI Swedish Water House, we invited Alexander Nolte from GuppyFriend and “Stop! Microwaste Now” to tell us how they work with micro-plastics. One of the downstream solutions they came up with is the GuppyFriend bag.  It is a washing bag which we, as consumers, can buy and use. It took the organisation two years of extensive research to come up with this specially designed bag made of high tech fiber, which captures 99% of all fibers released in the washing process.

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Photos: Ekaterina Larsson

Alexander: “The bag protects the fibers in the garment and reduces the amount of fiber waste. After the washing cycle, you can just remove the fuzz and collect the micro-plastics that shed in the seams. Afterwards you just put the micro-plastics in the household waste to be incinerated later.”

The clean ocean filter bag can be purchased in Sweden at Filippa K and Häglöfs for  around 280 kr. The German organization has been approached by hospitals and schools to produce larger bags. “We can produce larger bags but it is very important for the clothes not to touch as much as that breaks the fibers and causes to release even more,” says Alexander.

“Stop! Microwaste Now” is also working on awareness raising activities such as education for young children, and to stop sources of plastics leaking into the ocean. The children can win a boat trip in the ocean teaching them more about marine life and how to keep the water bodies clean.

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Since STWI started a working group on micro-plastics in relation to textiles a couple of years ago, a lot of dedicated action has happened.  Plenty of research is going on nowadays to understand textile material choices.  The research touches upon these choices and how the materials affect the pollution of ecosystems before, during and after the garments’ life-cycle. The textile industry must keep working on solutions in this regard, but we as consumers can also act. We can change our washing habits and make efforts to stay informed and demand solutions. So can you catch the plastic? After all – we are all in it together!

Written by Ekaterina Larsson and Elin Weyler