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Targeting laundry machines, tech company Matter is putting microplastics on the rinse cycle

Updated: Aug 25

close up of laundry machine
Image Credit: engin akyurt // unsplash
  • Microplastics are in everything and show up everywhere, exposure to which has toxic effects on both our health and the planet.

  • Textiles make up the largest percentage of microplastics currently polluting our oceans and one of the biggest ways they get there is by way of domestic and commercial laundry machines.

  • That’s why Bristol-based company Matter is taking its microplastic laundry filtration tech to industrial machines and recently, the company raised $10 million to do it.

  • With policies across the European Union pushing for crackdowns on microplastic pollution and France requiring microplastic laundry filters by 2025, Matter is just getting started.

Pollution is an issue that’s truly being taken to heart… literally. Last month, a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found, for the first time ever, microplastics in a human heart.

Microplastics are found nearly everywhere on Earth and are a result of human pollution — tiny particles of debris making their way into the atmosphere, every habitat imaginable, our food, and even animals from blue whales, which could be eating 10 million pieces of plastics every day, to farm animals, to even humans where microplastics were found in our blood for the first time ever in 2022 and now, in our hearts.

One study from last year even showed that microplastics were present in 76% of breast milk tested.

That’s why Matter, a microplastic tech company is pioneering technology that not only aims to reduce the amount of microplastics present in… everything but harvest and recycle them. Earlier this month, the company raised a $10 million Series A round to further enable its technology and build a roadmap to go commercial and industrial, working toward, as the team behind Matter hopes: a microplastic-free world.

“Matter's vision is to live in a world without micropollutants. We are dedicated to building the necessary tools, techniques, and scalable solutions to drive this transformation,” said Adam Root, founder and CEO of Matter, in a statement.

“We knew from the start that as a small company intent on tackling this global problem, we'd need to work with partners who have the scale, vision, and resources to help us deliver our technology as quickly and effectively as possible,” he added.

As the CEO told TechCrunch, “We’re seeing this micro-pollution break the blood-brain barrier; it’s changing fertility rates; plankton are ingesting it like crazy. I was like, OK, somebody has to solve this.”

That’s why Root cofounded the Bristol-based company in 2018, which sells a filter known as Gulp to filter out microplastics and prevent them from entering our oceans and waterways from one of the biggest point sources: laundry machines.

plastic pollution in ocean
Image Credit: Naja Bertolt Jensen // Unsplash

Laundry machines may not be your first thought when you think of pollution; however, textiles make up the largest percentage of microplastics currently polluting our oceans, which at the moment are a grand total of 171 trillion particles, with 700,000 of these fibers released every cycle from the average laundry machine.

And they aren’t the only ones. From young startups like Baleena to large companies like Samsung who partnered with Patagonia to release microplastic filters for their machines earlier this year, more and more are taking notice of the microplastic problem when it comes to clothes.

Other companies like Keracol, which develops natural dyes made from ingredients like food waste, which break down more easily than synthetic ones, are taking a different approach to keeping microplastics out of clothes, laundry machines, and thereby water. However, Matter doesn’t plan to stop at laundry machines and is aiming for a fully circular solution.

That’s why in addition to capturing the microplastics the company is currently researching ways to turn them into something new, enabling a fully circular solution.

The push for innovation in the sector is further encouraged by new policy taking off around the world that aims to crack down on plastic pollution, especially in Europe where Matter is based.

Earlier this year, five countries in the European Union — Germany, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and Norway — called for the E.U. to establish binding measures to prevent microplastics just months after the Union enacted some of the toughest crackdowns on plastic in the world.

Still, these crackdowns didn’t target microplastics. Already, the French government has taken the matter into its own hands with pending legislation that targets laundry machines, requiring that all new domestic and commercial washing machines be fitted with microfibre filters by January 2025. That’s why by the same year, Matter is also aiming to scale production to millions of filter units of all sizes.

By taking their home solution industrial, Matter is working with domestic and commercial laundry appliance manufacturers to integrate its technology, while partnering with textile brands to ensure they understand microplastic pollution and how to better prevent it.

“Legislation is inevitable given the ecological and health impacts of microplastic pollution that are becoming better understood every day,” said Katherine Keating, managing partner at SOUNDwaves, which provided direct investment in this round along with Builders Vision, and S2G Ventures, which led the round.

“We are already working with Matter to realize the commercial relationships required to bring this impact to industrial scales, mitigating thousands of tonnes of plastic materials entering our environment every year from textile production and industrial wastewater processes."

Edited to include article summation at the beginning.

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