Microplastics are the broken-down end result of single-use plastic from discarded plastic bottles etc, but also from synthetic fibres (nylon, polyester and recycled plastic bottles) breaking off in washing machines. These fibres then go into the sea and harm marine wildlife.
The obvious solution is to buy clothing made from cotton, linen or hemp (Tencel is iffy as it’s made from flammable eucalyptus trees that is causing wildfires). But unless you are able to completely overhaul your wardrobe in one day, the best solution (aside from washing clothes less often) is to use a microplastic catcher. Also good for people who use washable nappies and sanitary towels, as both have waterproof linings made from recycled polyester.
If 10% of UK households used a microplastic catcher, it would stop the equivalent of 6 million plastic water bottles going into our oceans each year. These do not catch lint (just bin, as leaving it in gardens can go mouldy and harm/choke birds and wildlife.)
GuppyFriend is a zipped bag made from a monofilament ‘stable stick’ polyester (so won’t lose microplastics itself). Just place clothes in the zipped bag, then remove from the hem and bin in a closed container, to avoid washing away at landfill. Then use again. The company also makes a sink filter (for hand-washing), a bucket filter (for floor mops), a filter for washing machines and even shoe insoles!
Cora Ball looks like one of those ‘dryer balls’ you put in machines. Inspired by how corals clean oceans, it tumbles around the machine to collect microplastics, then you just pull them out (like cleaning a hairbrush). It only collects up to 30% of microplastics, but it’s better than nothing and very easy to use (and lasts around 5 years). It can also be used in washer-dryers as it’s designed to withstand heat. Just don’t use it with delicates (lace, crocheted clothes etc) as the fibres may get wrapped around it. Profits help to clean the oceans.
More expensive are filters that install, but they collect around 90% of microfibers. PlanetCare takes just 10 minutes to install for most machines, and the company collects used cartridges, then sends them back with new filters to customers. Grundig is the first company to make washing machines with built-in microplastic-catching filters.