PlanetCare closes the loop on microplastic pollution from washing machines
Years before Samsung and others started tackling microplastic from machine washes escaping into the environment, there was Slovenia-based PlanetCare. Now the company has announced its second-generation external filter.
Many of us wear clothing made from synthetic fabric such as polyester and acrylic. They inevitably get dirty or smelly during use, and when we pop them into the washing machine, tiny fibers break away as the clothing gets bashed and bounced around inside of the drum.
Figures suggest that the source of some 35% of microplastics in the world's oceans is the humble washing machine, with a team from Plymouth University in the UK finding that a single wash could release more than 700,000 tiny acrylic particles into the environment.
Corporate lawyer Mojca Zupan was so shocked by such information that she quit her day job and founded PlanetCare to stop the problem at its source. Initially, the plan was to try and get manufacturers to install filters in their machines, but there was resistance so Zupan and team developed an external microfiber filter – which launched in 2020 and now has more than 7,000 active users.
The waste water pipe from the washing machine is connected to the filter housing, and an output pipe then runs to the drain. A cartridge inside traps the microfibers released during a cycle, and after 15 - 20 loads it's removed and replaced with a fresh one.
The user then sends the spent cartridge back to the company for cleaning, replacing the filter and resupplying customers - a subscription service is available that gets fresh ones sent out regularly. Meanwhile the trapped fibers are collected for responsible recycling.
The next-gen design will work similarly, but the filter will be able to capture 98% of all microfibers down to 10 microns in length from washing machine waste water. The number of loads per cartridge has been increased to 30 or more. And the PlanetCare 2.0 "is made entirely from recycled plastic and follows the pure principles of passive design, requiring no power or electronic components, which means there will never be any batteries or equipment to dispose of."
The PlanetCare External Microfiber Filter 2.0 will go on sale from December at US$96 for the small starter kit or $193 for the XL starter kit. Existing customers can upgrade to the new design for $32. We've no word on subscription costs/availability for US customers, though the current EU-only scheme comes in at €7.50 per month.
The company has also announced an upcoming collaboration with a sustainable furniture producer to use the fibers and filtering medium in new products down the track.