A team of researchers based in Hong Kong is developing a 3D-printed filter to capture microplastics released by tumble dryers. An invention that aims to raise awareness of plastic pollution from the textile industry.
Washing machines and tumble dryers are often cited among the everyday household appliances that can be particularly polluting, notably due to the large quantities of microplastics released by clothes during washing or drying cycles.
To reduce this polluting impact, scientists from the City University of Hong Kong have developed a filter capable of limiting the amount of plastic microfibers emitted by these appliances. According to the research team, between 90 and 120 million microfibers are produced and released into the outdoor air per dryer each year, based on the example of an average Canadian household.
The researchers' findings are outlined in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology Letters . The scientists have developed small filters designed using 3D printing. This filtration system, which the team has already created for washing machines, is now being developed for tumble dryers.
But what to do with the micro-particles retained by the filter? To prevent them from escaping into the atmosphere, it is preferable to put them in a small airtight bag before throwing them in the garbage, explains Professor Kenneth Leung, who worked on the research.
While this creation may be ingenious and useful in everyday life, it also aims to sound the alarm on the gargantuan problem of plastic pollution from clothing, which the entire fashion industry must address.
According to a study published in March 2020, between 700 and 4,000 fibers per gram of fabric can be released from four different types of polyester clothing when washed at 40°C. Worse, the researchers found that wearing these clothing items for just 20 minutes could release up to 400 fibers per gram of fabric.