Guppyfriend (also sold at Natural Collection) is a washing bag to stop plastic pollution (here’s a good review). Invented by a German non-profit, it stops a good percentage of tiny microfibers on synthetic fibres (including clothes made from recycled plastic bottles) from escaping the washing machine, and going into the sea. Just pop your laundry in the bag and seal, then peel off the tiny pieces of plastic after washing, and pop them in the bin. EarthKind Sea Saver Laundry Bag is similar, and can also be used to protect delicate fabrics in the washing machine.
Every time we wash clothes in the washing machine, any artificial fibres (like nylon) that detach from our clothes go into the storm drains, and into the sea. These tiny pieces of plastic are then eaten by marine wildlife, who then die. And it creates masses of plastic pollution. Whales open their huge mouths to eat food and then blow out water through their blow-hole.
Microplastics are less than 5mm. These can be found in sunscreens (use a natural sunscreen instead) to clingfilm (use reusable food covers, you’ll find plenty on this site). Not only are they in the seas, but for people who eat fish – the average European seafood eater ingests 11,000 particles a year. This washing bag is designed to house any clothes made using artificial fibres (ie. not organic cotton, linen or hemp). As well as reducing wear and tear on your clothes, the micro fibres that break off are caught by the mesh. Tip: don’t overload the bag, or it won’t spin properly.
To use, just pop your clothing in the bag and wash as normal. When the bag gets full, just peel out the ball of fibres and put it in your plastic recycling bin. One purchase will last years, and help to stop the estimated 1 million tons of micro fibres being discharged into waste water each year. For more information, visit the manufacturer’s site at Guppyfriend.
It’s not perfect, because if the recovered fibres end up at landfill and it rains, they could wash away and do damage too. The answer is to really use natural fibres like cotton, hemp or linen. But for now, this is the best solution, considering the millions of synthetic items are washed daily.
Cora Ball (US – also sold in the UK) is an alternative, it’s a recycled plastic ball (specially developed to withstand the extreme temperatures of residential and commercial wash) that collects a quarter to a third of microplastics, but don’t use with delicates like lace, tassels, fraying threads or chunky wide-knit as it may catch. Bra or bikini straps may wrap around, but are easy to unwrap (unless made of lace).
What Are Microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny synthetic fibres that break down in the wash, and are released to the sea, and don’t get treated in wastewater treatments, as they are too small. so escape the filters. Fabrics like nylon and polyester are made from plastic, so tiny pieces of plastic are released, as clothes tumble around in the machine. They then pass through sewage and end up in our oceans. Non-biodegradable plastics get trapped in the stomachs of marine wildlife.
So either buy natural fabrics (or use a Guppyfriend for synthetics – that includes clothing made from upcycled polyester, nylon, viscose, rayon etc). Experts advise to also not throw your trainers in the wash, as this can also release plastics into the ocean (again if you do, use a Guppyfriend).