When you think of plastic, do you think of the banned plastic straws first? Here we will tell you why you should think more about a microplastic filter for the washing machine. You will also find out what microplastic actually is, why it is dangerous and what you can do in everyday life to wash more sustainably.
Healthy oceans are essential for life on our planet. They absorb a large part of the heat accumulated in the atmosphere and stabilize the climate. Keeping our oceans clean and ecosystems intact is therefore essential for the survival of our planet.
71 percent of the earth's surface is covered with water. Image: © Pexels/Pixabay 2022
What does that have to do with your household? some. For example when it comes to washing. Not only is this a chore if you don't have a modern washing machine , it can also be quite harmful to the environment over time. However, this is not about the energy or water consumption of outdated devices, but about an even less well-known aspect: microplastics.
Washing machines with BetterWay logo Buy now at
What is microplastic?
Plastics are mostly not biodegradable. Due to aging processes, they disintegrate into smaller and smaller particles. Image: © Pexels/Alfo Medeiros 2022
The term microplastic refers to the smallest plastic particles that are not biodegradable. The tiny synthetic particles can range in size from as little as 5 millimeters to an unimaginable 0.001 millimeter. Some microplastics are already contained in products such as cosmetics (primary microplastics), and some are created during use, for example in the form of abrasion from car tires (secondary microplastics). Even carelessly thrown away plastic packaging, bags and bottles do not rot, but decompose into microplastics as they age.
How does microplastic get into the environment?
Microplastics can enter the environment in a number of ways and, once there, cause different problems. Tire abrasion, for example, gets into surface water and the sewage system with seeping rain. The smallest particles are transported through the air as fine or micro dust and then washed out again by snow – they can cover great distances in the process.
Microplastics from cosmetics and synthetic clothing, on the other hand, get into our wastewater directly when they are used or washed. However, the filter systems of the sewage treatment plants cannot filter out all particles. This is how parts of the microplastics get into streams and rivers and finally end up in our seas. Even the microplastic that is filtered out remains in the environment, since the sewage sludge is applied to arable land as fertilizer.
Why is microplastic harmful?
Once in the ocean, microplastics pose a threat to marine life – and humans. Image: © Pexels/Jeremy Bishop 2022
The synthetic plastic particles are particularly harmful because they are either contaminated with toxic pollutants from the outset or because of their surface structure they easily accumulate environmental toxins. The toxic particles are then absorbed by marine organisms and can have a toxic effect on them, for example causing inflammation and tissue changes.
Not only that: The microplastic is part of the food chain and can also reach humans through fish consumption. Little is known about the effects of microplastics on human health. What is certain is that microplastics get into our bodies. In March 2022, researchers at the University of Amsterdam found tiny pieces of plastic in the blood of 17 of the 22 participants in a study. The particles could accumulate in the tissue and possibly cause inflammation there. Long-term consequences have hardly been investigated to date.
What does microplastic have to do with my washing machine?
Synthetic clothing loses tiny fibers when washed – microplastics. Image: © Pexels/Karolina Grabowska 2022
When washing, your laundry gets clean, but the water gets dirty. It's not just dirt particles from clothing. With each wash, some fibers are washed out of synthetic garments. These tiny particles, for example from fleece sweaters or nylon tights, are microplastics that get into the environment via wastewater.
Many detergents contain microplastics as opacifiers. Image: © Pexels/RODNAE Productions 2022
In addition, synthetic clothing is not the only source of microplastics. Similar to many cosmetics, some detergents and fabric softeners also contain microplastics. In detergents, they are used, among other things, to color the detergents – mainly in liquid and gel-like products. Since the microplastics used do not contribute to the cleaning performance of the detergent, our tip is: Look out for microplastic-free products when you buy them. Products with the Blue Angel or the EU Ecolabel must not contain any microplastics. Or you can check the products with the free CodeCheck app.
What can microplastic filters do for the washing machine?
Luckily, there is a way to reduce the environmental impact of washing without having to completely stop wearing and washing synthetic clothes: microplastic filters for the washing machine. According to the manufacturer, the microplastic filters used in the current Grundig models GW7P510419W and GW7P79419W filter out up to 90 percent of the microfibers rinsed out during washing. They end up in a filter box in the detergent drawer and not in our streams, rivers and seas. The microplastic filter itself consists of 98 percent recycled fibers.
Grundig washing machines with microplastic filter Buy now at
What do I need to know about microplastic filters?
Microplastic filters for the washing machine therefore make a valuable contribution to environmental protection. If you also make sure to choose microplastic-free products when buying detergents and fabric softeners, you can significantly improve your ecological footprint when washing.
However, you should know that microplastic filters only last a certain amount of time – depending on the frequency of washing and the type of programs, you have to change the filter every three to six months. The exchange is very easy. However, the microplastic filter must not be disposed of with household waste. However, you can contact the manufacturer for this. For example, Grundig works with a specialist recycling company from Germany.
Did you know that …
… microplastic filters for washing machines will be mandatory in France from 2025? From January 1st, all newly sold washing machines there must be equipped with an appropriate filter.
Are microplastic filters also available for older washing machines?
If you are not currently planning to buy a new washing machine, you can still do something to prevent microplastics from ending up in the wastewater. AEG, for example, offers a microplastic filter for retrofitting AEG washing machines (front-loading and top-loading) that works independently of the washing machine. It is simply attached to the wall next to the device and connected to the hoses. The filter is operated by the water pressure of the washing machine and does not require a power connection. AEG also promises that up to 90 percent of the microplastics washed out during washing can be collected in this way.
AEG micro-plastic filter for retrofitting Buy now at
How do I find an environmentally friendly washing machine?
If you are about to buy a new one, you should look around for an energy-saving and environmentally friendly washing machine. The BetterWay label , SATURN's sustainability logo, offers a good starting point. This honors particularly recommendable products from various categories that have been assessed as sustainable by independent testing organizations. This means that BetterWay products meet the sustainability criteria of the respective organizations. The criteria of the testing organization EcoTopTen are particularly relevant for washing machines. BetterWay washing machines meet the criteria of low power consumption, automatic load, spin efficiency and an integrated water protection system.
Washing machines with BetterWay logo Buy now at
BetterWay: Follow the path to more sustainability with SATURN
Sustainability and environmental protection concern us all. SATURN is also committed to a conscious and fair way of life. Here you will find tips and tricks for saving energy, repairing and recycling technology as well as information about sustainable products with the BetterWay logo: https://www.saturn.de/de/specials/nachhaltigkeit
- Microplastic refers to the smallest plastic parts that are not biodegradable.
- The particles enter the environment in various ways – for example as tire dust, from cosmetics and by washing synthetic clothing.
- The particles are transported over long distances by sewage, streams, rivers, rain and air and end up in our oceans.
- There they can harm marine organisms and end up in the human organism through the food chain. Little is known about long-term health effects.
- When washing, microplastics are problematic in two ways: on the one hand, they are often added to detergents and fabric softeners, and on the other hand, they are produced when synthetic clothing is washed.
- Microplastic filters for washing machines can capture up to 90 percent of microplastics and prevent them from getting into the wastewater.
- Microplastic filters are available both integrated in new washing machines and for retrofitting.
- The filters must be changed regularly and disposed of properly. That goes through the manufacturer.
- When buying a new washing machine, pay attention to sustainability. You can use the SATURN BetterWay logo as a guide, for example.