A device to stop microplastics leaving your laundry

Hundreds of thousands of microfibres escape from every wash. This year’s Pitchfest winner has created a filter that can stop them.

A device to stop microplastics leaving your laundry
Source: Canva

This clean tech solution catches microplastic fibres from washing machines before they spread across the planet.

A device that can be added to existing domestic washing machines is tackling the problem of microplastics pollution and its maker has just been named as this year’s Pitchfest winner.

UK startup Cleaner Seas Group has taken top honours in this year’s Ocean Impact Pitchfest with its ‘plug-and-play’ washing machine filters.

The filter, called Indi, was developed to stop microfibre pollution before it enters the ocean, and as the overall Pitchfest winner the company took home a A$50K cash prize to help it expand its impact.

Indi can be plugged into any existing washing machine, according to its maker, to catch these fibres at the source. It features a free-to-return cartridge which, once full, is returned to the company which turns the microfibre waste into new products.

Founded in 2018, Cleaner Seas Group is already in its second production run, having manufactured more than 2000 units since its May launch.

Cleaner Seas Group CEO Dave Miller and Impact Director Avril Greenaway travelled from their Cornwall HQ to accept the prize.

“We can’t quite believe it to be honest, to be announced as the Winners from 200 applications is an astounding result,” they said of the win.

“We’re at the perfect stage of our journey to enter new markets, raise investment, and secure aligned partners that can take us to the next level.”

According to researchers, an average 6kg load of washing is estimated to unleash around 700,000 plastic microfibres, and these end up in our food and drinking water, potentially impacting our health and our ecosystems.

Other startups in the space are Slovenian startup PlanetCare, which was a finalist in Ocean Pitchfest 2022, and UK startup Matter which has developed a microfibre washing machine filter called Gulp.

"We’re at the perfect stage of our journey to enter new markets, raise investment, and secure aligned partners that can take us to the next level.”

The Ocean Impact Pitchfest competition takes place at an annual event run by entrepreneur and startup accelerator Ocean Impact Organisation (OIO) to celebrate startups and entrepreneurs from around the world in the ocean impact space.

Australian-based OIO has supported 99 startups and entrepreneurs through its innovation programs since its 2020 launch.

Pitchfest runners-up were NovFeed which makes a protein product for aquaculture from organic food waste, and Washbox Global which has developed a mobile, closed-loop tool wash system for construction trades.

Other Pitchfest award winners were Kelp Island, which has developed a kelp-based building material for maritime architecture, and OnDeck Fisheries AI, which automates the monitoring and analytics of fisheries.

The tech
The Indi washing machine filter was developed on the back of Plymouth University research and lab testing, and uses a wind-on filter paper cartridge to overcome blocked filter issues. Each filter contains a spool of microfibre-collecting filter paper and an in-built sensor detects when each section of the filter paper is full and winds the filter paper along to capture more microfibres and prevent a blockage. The cartridge contains enough filter paper to last an average of 100 washes based on the average household wash, and an LED warning light system indicates when the cartridge or batteries need replacing. It captures microfibres down to 1 micron.