This Laundry Ball Stops Plastic Fibers From Getting Into Our Water

Cora Ball mimics the natural filtering process of coral to remove microfibers from your washer.

May 7, 2019

Microfiber is a household name. It's what our fleece sweatshirts, workout clothing, blankets, towels, and even cleaning supplies are made of, but what exactly is microfiber? The term refers to a synthetic fiber that is extremely thin; about a fifth of the diameter of a human hair. Microfiber is commonly made from polyester, but it can be made from nylon, kevlar or other types of polyamides. Whatever material is at the base of the final microfiber product, they all have one thing in common - they are not biodegradable and usually not recyclable.

So, why is that a problem, you might ask. And the answer is simple: every day, millions of microfiber products go into a washing machine where the washing cycle will inevitably loosen a few fibers from the fabric. That means millions of tiny strands of microfiber are washed down the drain and into our water supply, ultimately ending up in our food chain.

Every time a fleece jacket is washed, it releases two grams of microfiber, according to a study by Patagonia and the University of California Santa Barbara. In fact, there could be as much as 1.4 million trillion microfibers in the oceans today.

"Microfibers seem to be one of the most common plastic debris items in animals and environmental samples," Dr. Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Toronto told National Public Radio. If you eat seafood, you are ingesting microfibers.

Different companies are working on possible solutions to this problem. One solution would be to build filters into washers and dryers that would catch the fibers, but that would only apply to new machines since most of our existing laundry machines would not be able to be refitted. But there is also an easier way.

A new product, Cora Ball – that was inspired by the way Coral naturally filters the oceans – was created to catch and trap microfibers so that they do not go down the drain.

Just drop the Cora Ball into your washer when you do laundry and it will swish around collecting the fibers and as an added bonus, it collects pet hair as well. After your load is done, remove the ball and clean out the collected debris. Independent research done at Rochman's lab showed that the Cora Ball catches 26 percent of microfibers that come off of the fabric during a wash cycle.

The company told Inhabit that "if only 10 percent of US households use Cora Ball, we can keep the plastic equivalent of over 30 million water bottles from washing into our public waterways every year. That is enough water bottles to reach from New York City to London.”

Cora Ball is manufactured from diverted or recycled rubber and has an expected life cycle of five years, and then the product can be recycled.

Another product, Lint LUV-R, a filter that has to be installed to the plumbing outside your washing machine, captures an average of 87 percent of microfibers, according to the study. "These results suggest that these two technologies added to washing machines could be an effective way to reduce microfiber emissions to the environment," the researchers concluded.

While these products do not entirely eliminate microfibers from our water supply, they help a great deal, and we can do our part to reduce the amount of plastic contamination going into our oceans and our bodies.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.