Modern eco-friendly washing machines are increasingly adding in-built microplastic catchers, so that synthetic fibres (nylon, polyester, recycled plastic bottles) don’t break off and end up in the sea, harming marine creatures). Although not as effective, you can buy more affordable ‘portable options’ that you place in existing washing machines. You then collect the fibres at the end of each wash, and bin them in a covered container (to stop them washing away at landfill, and going down drains and into the sea).
Of course the best solution is to only wear natural fibres (cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp). But most people still have some existing clothes with synthetic fibres (or people on budgets often have to buy secondhand). Others may wash soft shoes (like sneakers) that contain recycled polyester. So this is the next-best solution. Microplastic catchers are also a good idea for people who use washable nappies or sanitary towels, as both usually have waterproof linings made with recycled polyester. If 10% of people used one, it would stop the same as 6 million plastic bottles going into our oceans each year.
Microplastic catchers do not catch lint. Just remove and bin safely (lint should not be left in gardens for birds/wildlife to ‘build nests’ as it can go mouldy and harm/choke.
portable microplastic catchers
GuppyFriend (Europe) is a zipped bag made from a ‘stable stick’ polyester that won’t lose microplastics itself. Just place clothes in the zipped bag, remove the microplastics from the hem after use, and bin in a closed container. The company also makes a sink filter (for hand-washing), a bucket filter (for mopping floors), a filter for washing machines and even shoe insoles.
Cora Ball (US – also sold in UK) looks like a ‘dryer ball’, and inspired by how corals clean the oceans. It tumbles around the machine to collect (only 30%) of microplastics, then you pull them out (like cleaning a hairbrush). It’s better than nothing, easy to use and lasts 5 years. It’s also designed to withstand heat of washer-dryers, and profits are used to clean the oceans.
plumbed-in microplastic catchers
If you can afford it, plumbed-in microplastic catchers can collect around 90% of microplastics. PlanetCare takes just 10 minutes to install (it collects used cartridges to fill with new filters). And Grundig is the first company to make washing machines with built-in microplastic-catching filters.