Patagonia began researching a little-known environmental issue eight years ago: with every load of laundry, hundreds (if not millions) of microfibers, each smaller than 5 millimeters long, wash down the drain.
Some are filtered out at water treatment facilities, while others wind up in the ocean, where synthetic fabric fibers account for a shockingly substantial proportion of plastic pollution—35%, according to one estimate. Your favorite sweater fragments may now be drifting in the Arctic Ocean.
In a two-year cooperation, Patagonia inspired Samsung to address the issue by redesigning their washing machines. Today, Samsung presented their solution: a new filter that can be added to current washers and used in conjunction with a “Less Microfiber” cycle devised by Samsung. The combination makes it possible to shrink microfiber pollution by as much as 98%.
The new “Less Microfiber” cycle, which can be downloaded as an update for any Samsung washer, can reduce microfiber pollution by up to 54%. To address the remaining issues, the business created a filter that can be fitted to existing washers at the drain pipe and has holes small enough to collect fibers.
The filter’s final design compresses the microfibers such that it only has to be emptied once a month and provides an alarm through an app when it needs to be replaced. In principle, the fibers gathered may eventually be repurposed into new material rather than being discarded. (It’s also worth noting that the filter is made of recycled plastic.)
Ocean Wise, a nonprofit that tests fiber shedding confirmed that it nearly eliminated microfiber pollution. Now, Samsung’s challenge is to get consumers to use it.
Reference- Samsung Newsroom, Vox, Interesting Engineering, Fast Company, Popular Science