The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) has developed a new technology in partnership with the H&M Foundation that is able to separate microplastics from wastewater.
This new technology called Acousweep creates sweeping acoustic waves in a custom made chamber to physically trap and separate the plastic fibres from the water, transferring them to a separate tank for further treatment, such as recycling. This process does not require any chemical solvent or biological additives.
While the current lab scale can handle 20 litres of water per hour, the upscaled capacity will be able to reach 5,000 to 10,000 litres.
This development “will have a significant impact on the fashion industry’s sustainable footprint”, as stated in the press release, as microplastic pollution is a well known threat to ecosystems, animals and people.
They can emerge from various sources of different industries, such as larger debris that breaks down into smaller pieces, or microbeads in health and beauty products. However, about 16 to 35 percent stem from synthetic textiles.
Christiane Dolva, strategy lead at H&M Foundation, said “As a non-profit, we have the urgent opportunity to create change by supporting disruptive research that could lead us there. Innovation is transformation and Acousweep is proof that it's worth investing in impatient research.”