Samsung on washer that 'cuts ocean-bound plastics'

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The engineers behind a new eco-conscious Samsung washing machine that aims to capture microplastics shed during washing have spoken about its development.

While most people have heard of the harmful effects of microplastics on the marine ecosystem - ocean floor alone is now home to an estimated 14 million tons of microplastics – few of us understand how these microplastics get there.

It is estimated that 35 percent of marine microplastics coming from laundering clothes made from synthetic fibers.

And if you thought this was just a problem for the world’s oceans, think again. Scientists have discovered that humans ingest the equivalent of one credit card of microplastics per week from the air and water we consume.

Samsung’s new microplastic reduction washing machine aims to address this problem. The product was developed in collaboration with the outdoor clothing brand Patagonia.

“Since Samsung’s Digital Appliances division was already conducting its own research to reduce microplastics, we were able to form a mutual understanding and agreed to work together quickly,” said Chiwoong Yoon, who worked on ESG strategy for the project, during an interview with Samsung Newsroom. “The support from Patagonia heavily motivated us and gave us the confidence to accelerate the development of a practical solution and commercialize it.”

In order to accurately and objectively verify that microplastics were being reduced, the companies needed help from a research institute in the field. For this role, the nonprofit marine conservation research organization Ocean Wise Plastics Lab was enlisted.

Tests were carried out to find the most effective laundering method for reducing microplastic shedding as well as the standard for measuring how effective the reduction was.

A year after the development began, Samsung finally succeeded in developing a laundry cycle that is specifically designed to reduce microplastic shedding by up to 54 percent. The machine relies on a new proprietary technology called Ecobubble.

“Samsung’s proprietary Ecobubble was utilized to reduce the emission of microplastics,” said Samsung’s Wanhee Lee, who worked on the washing machine’s development and performance. “Ecobubble enables laundry detergent to be dissolved and absorbed by the water quickly to effectively remove dirt and stains. So, it minimizes the abrasion of clothes, which is the main cause of microplastic shedding, and it protects the fabric as well.”

New washing machines are not the only products to benefit as all connected washers will be able install the new wash cycles through updates by the end of the year, Samsung said.