Microplastics—tiny plastic particles—are a major source of ocean pollution and pose a threat to marine life and the water supply. Microplastics come from a variety of sources, one of them being clothing. Researchers have determined that an average load of laundry releases more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers into wastewater. Said another way, 35% of the microplastics in the oceans come from doing laundry at home.
Why? Because about 60% of clothing is now synthetic, and synthetic fabrics (fleece, polyester, nylon, etc.) are primarily made of plastics. You can learn more about microplastics in this Wirecutter article.
In researching how to combat this problem at home, I came across PlanetCare, a company that has a closed-loop solution and professes to capture 90% of microplastics in its filters that you connect to your washing machine. While I can’t speak to the exact percentage of microplastics that were diverted, you can see for yourself what a used filter looks like after just 20 loads of laundry (new on the left and used on the right):
PlanetCare collects the used cartridges free of charge and refurbishes them. The shell is washed, fitted with a new filtering medium, and sent back to customers. The current plan for the used filtering medium with the collected fibers is to turn them into insulation mats. They will not be incinerated or sent to a landfill. You can learn more about the entire process here: https://planetcare.org/en-int/pages/how-it-works.
Installation was not too difficult and replacing the filters is also simple. The entry level starter kit costs $65 plus shipping, but it becomes more economical if you order more filters. I was a little dubious of how well the system would work, but after I saw the first used filter, I was convinced.
If purchasing a system to capture microplastics is not an affordable option for you, other options are to do laundry less frequently or try to buy natural fibers (cotton, wool, etc.) when purchasing new clothes.