Tech giant Samsung and eco-minded clothier Patagonia have teamed up to tackle ocean pollution. In a statement released earlier this month, Samsung says that “together, the companies are working on a feasible, effective and expandable way to combat the microplastics that result from textiles and laundry.”
The amount of microplastics in our oceans is well documented. There are currently estimated to be 14 million tons of them floating around our planet, devastating ecosystems, wildlife and human health. This partnership looks to reduce the amount of plastics that reach the ocean in the first place.
Samsung’s role is to create new washing technologies to aid this. One of those technologies is called Ecobubble, which generates greater amounts of bubbles to penetrate fabrics and remove dirt more efficiently. Another is its water purifier, which was recently certified by NSF International for its ability to filter out particles that measure as little as 0.5 to 1 micrometers, which includes microplastics.
Last year, the German manufacturer Grundig unveiled the world’s first washing machine with an integrated microplastic filter, but Samsung’s smart washing machines go a step further. As well as implementing clever filtering systems, they also use AI washing technology that senses the amount of clothing and level of soiling to cut down on water and detergent waste. These might seem like small changes, but they add up over time to make a big difference.
On the Patagonia side of things, the brand is helping with product testing, sharing research and facilitating introductions to NGOs like Ocean Wise. Patagonia commissioned Ocean Wise to investigate microfibers three years ago, with its research showing that fluffy textiles like fleece were amongst the worst offenders.
For Patagonia, this is a bit of a problem. The brand is well known for its iconic fleece pullovers and jackets. In a video announcing the collaboration, Director of Patagonia Philosophy, Vincent Stanley, admitted that “one problem for our company has been the shedding of microplastic fibers from our fleece jackets.”
So, why doesn’t Patagonia just remove all plastics from its clothing in the first place? It seems to be getting there. Last year, it announced its partnership with Natural Fiber Welding to replace the non-degradable polyesters and polyurethanes it uses in some of its garments. It’s also funding studies and researching new fiber types that reduce shedding, and aims to use only renewable or recycled materials in its products by 2025.
The partnership could come across as odd, but it is these kinds of collaborations that could be vital to the protection of the planet. As Samsung states, this partnership “demonstrates the type of innovation that can result when companies – even those from entirely different industries – come together to address environmental issues.”
For more news in textiles innovation, check out Ralph Lauren’s recent collaboration with Natural Fiber Welding.