Bahía Blanca students designed a microplastic filter for the washing machine and were highlighted in an innovation contest
Although it seems incredible, the washing machine is one of the main sources of microplastics that pollute the oceans. With each “innocent” wash, millions of microparticles are released from the synthetic textile fibers.
invisible to the human eye, microplastics are increasingly present in the air, soil and water. Most of them come from the decomposition of waste that is not properly separated or recycled. And no less than 35% comes from the washing machine.
To big problems, small solutions are worth it, like the one they devised three high school students from Bahía Blanca. Is about Cards, an activated carbon “biofilter” that, placed at the end of the drain hose, manages to retain these microscopic particles.
The project was devised by Agustin Manguello, Victoria Wesner and Karla Bustamante, students of the last year (today they are brand new graduates) of the Technical School No. 1 “Crucero General Belgrano” of Bahía Blanca. And he obtained at the end of last year the second place in the international competition “Solutions for the Future” organized by the technology company Samsung. In addition, it was the most voted proposal by the public among the five finalists, after a selection process among 681 projects from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
“At school we had to do a thesis to graduate. Victoria and Karla brought the idea from information they had read about how microplastics are affecting animals and plants of our region”, says Mangüello. “So we started to investigate and we saw that activated carbon, which is also used in water filters, manages to retain these microparticles“, Explain.
As a plumber’s assistant, a task he learned from his grandfather at the age of 13, Mangüello was in charge of designing the filter prototype, which young people printed with 3D printer and tested it in the school laboratory. “We made a design that fits standard washing machine drain hoses. With which it does not need to come from the factory, and anyone can install it, with a clamp and a screw”, he comments.
“The filter is made from recycled plastic and comes with an activated carbon cartridge which is changed every six months or a year, depending on the number of washes. Our idea is that by delivering a used one you get another one at a lower price. Activated carbon can be reused, we are investigating processes to decontaminate it,” says Mangüello.
While they were developing their thesis at school, the young people found out about the Solutions for the Future contest through social networks, and their teacher, Walter Acosta, encouraged them to register.
“The prize (consisting of a tablet and a set of headphones for each member of the team) gave us a lot of momentum,” he says. In addition to giving visibility to the project, “we received virtual training on putting together a business plan and presentations to investors”, says Mangüello, and anticipates that together with her teammates they plan to create a venture based on this development. “Now each of us is preparing to enter university and although we are going to pursue different careers (Karla Bustamante is going to study Biochemistry; Victoria Wesner, Geology; and Agustín Mangüello, Chemistry), we want to keep the project alive. We are thinking of starting to sell the filters in our own virtual store, since doing so in a physical store would increase the cost of the filters and we want it to be an accessible solution”, assures the young entrepreneur.