You’ve probably seen by now articles in the press about microfibre pollution entering our rivers, lakes and oceans causing problems to plants and aquatic life and eventually to us further up the chain.
But what is a microfibre exactly? It’s basically a super small synthetic fibre, a type of plastic such as polyester, polypropylene, or polyamide (e.g. nylon). It’s so small that a strand or fibre is smaller than the diameter of a strand of silk, which is itself about 1/5 the diameter of a human hair (source: Wikipedia).
There’s no shortage of information out there around the fact that these microfibres are causing harm, but, there’s not a great deal of information on what to do about it.
I’m sure one day all new washing machines will have microfibre filters pre-fitted and options will exist to add filters to older machines to trap the fibres before they exit. Until that day arrives there’s a new solution on the market that is worth knowing about. German compatriots Alexander Nolte and Oliver Spies developed a laundry bag designed to capture the smallest pieces of synthetic fibres so that they don’t make it out of your machine in the first place.
What type of clothing or fabric would you place in the laundry bag?
Anything that you plan to wash that contains non-natural or synthetic fibres. A quick check of the item’s care label will tell you everything you need to know. Examples of items containing synthetic microfibres include microfibre cleaning cloths, swimwear, athletic wear such as cycling jerseys (the ones that wick away sweat), some towels for swimming and the big culprit, fleece apparel.
The laundry bag developed by the duo has come to be known as GUPPYFRIEND WASHING BAG and is available on Alexander and Oliver’s site http://guppyfriend.com as well as on Patagonia’s site at http://www.patagonia.com/ (search for ‘guppyfriend’).
The bag itself is 100% recyclable and is made out of polyamide (aka Nylon) with a mesh width of 50 micron allowing your liquid soap to enter and exit easily but with holes not big enough for the shedding microfibres to exit. After a wash the microfibres (visible to the eye against the white mesh) can be collected by hand from the hems and corners where they gather in clumps and disposed of in the rubbish bin.
The bag is quite large but should not be filled more than 50% of its volume to allow it to move around correctly in your washing machine. The smooth surface of the bag actually leads to a lower proportion of microfibre shedding thereby increasing the lifespan of your garment making this invention a win win. Hat off to Alexander and Oliver for following through on their idea over a beer and to Patagonia for backing the Kickstarter project and for giving this environmental saver the exposure it deserves.