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A world’s first: a laundry bag that catches plastic microfibers

The very first specially designed laundry bag that catches microfibers has hit the market. The Guppy Friend is a German invention. The Guardian picked up the story.

Millions of microfibers are released every time synthetic clothes are washed. This has been proven in Mermaids research. The fibers are washed down the drain in the washing water, and water purification plants are not equipped to remove these minute plastic particles. Most of them end up in the sea and enter the food chain. As yet, there is no solution for this type of plastic pollution. The Mermaids researchers believe that potential solutions lie in different textiles and detergents, and in the use of filters. Now is the time to look for solutions.

The Guppy Friend is actually a filter inside the washing machine drum. The bag is made of nylon and has a very fine mesh of 50 microns, small enough to retain fibers inside the bag while allowing soapy water to penetrate and reach the clothes. The laundry bag was tested and co-financed by the outdoor apparel and equipment brand, Patagonia. Patagonia will sell the bags for $20 to $30.

This invention is a step in the right direction. Importantly, it gives consumers a way to act. But it also raises several questions.

Will consumers actually buy the bag? Won’t fibers stick to the clothes you take out the bag? How can you remove the fibers from the bag after a wash? Will the bag give manufacturers such as Patagonia an excuse to just continue producing synthetic clothing? At what point will wear and tear of the bag allow plastic microfibers to pass through the mesh and enter the sewage system anyway? Would it not make more sense to find a solution that will be easier for consumers to use?

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation, says “It is a very positive step that businesses are taking this problem seriously. The inventors of the Guppy Friend claim that 99% of the fibers are caught by their bags. We would like Leitat, the Spanish research institute that took part in the Mermaids research, to look into the effectiveness of the bag. Will an independent research institute be able to verify that claim?”