01.20.22 / Sustainability

Samsung Collaborates with Patagonia to Keep Microplastics Out of Our Oceans

Talking Points

  • Scientists estimate that the ocean floor alone is now home to over 14 million tons of “microplastics.”
  • Together, Samsung and Patagonia are collaborating on a practical, effective, and expandable way to reduce the microplastics that are released into the environment from textiles and laundry.
  • Leveraging Patagonia’s extensive research, Samsung is designing a sophisticated new washing machine that lets consumers safely wash their favorite garments while minimizing the impact of microplastics.

We’ve all seen the heartbreaking images of once beautiful oceans and beaches that are now covered in plastic waste. This problem means that fish, turtles, birds, and other forms of sea life are now required to share their habitats with endless mounds of bottles, straws, and other discarded plastics.

So far, most ocean clean-up efforts have focused on single-use plastic products. But the plastics we see are actually only a small part of the problem. Below the ocean’s surface lurks an invisible threat that grows more serious by the day and makes the development of eco-conscious products and solutions more important than ever.

Microplastics Found in Our Oceans

According to CSIRO research, scientists estimate that the ocean floor alone is now home to over 14 million tons[1] of what are called “microplastics.” These tiny pieces of plastic are microscopic fragments that measure less than 5mm and are often too small to see with the naked eye. Despite their size, microplastics can make up significant amounts of ocean plastic pollution. Without immediate changes, data from a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report shows the annual flow of ocean microplastic pollution will nearly triple by 2040, to 29 million metric tons per year.[2]

Microplastics have been identified to affect wildlife, habitats, and ecosystem function, as well as having human health impacts. A study by OrbMedia analyzed both tap water and bottled water in 14 countries and found that over 80% of all samples contained microplastics.[3] And a report from the World Wide Fund For Nature estimates that humans ingest the equivalent of one credit card of plastic per week through the water they drink and the air they breathe.[4] 

Where Do Microplastics Come From?

Microplastics can enter the environment in a few different ways. The first is when they’re released directly as small plastic particles, such as microbeads. These substances are known as primary microplastics. The second way is when larger plastics from everyday items break down over time into tiny pieces. These types are known as secondary microplastics.

But another form of microplastic that many people aren’t aware of is the kind that is released from our laundry when we wash synthetic textiles. That includes your favorite fleece vest, your nylon jacket, and yes, even those comfortable spandex yoga pants. From manufacturing these fabrics to washing them, microplastics can be created throughout many stages of these products’ lifecycles.

That said, there is a growing movement to start eliminating microplastics from our waterways. NGOs, governments, and brands around the world have taken note of the rising number of these invisible but harmful plastics and are taking important actions to help keep them out of our oceans. Add-on filters for washing machines and protective laundry bags are just some of the solutions that are now available to help capture some of the microplastics released during washing.

While that’s a start, more holistic solutions are needed to cut down the amount of microplastics that are released throughout a product’s lifecycle. That’s why Samsung announced at CES 2022 that we are working with Patagonia, the American outdoor clothing company that has forged a sustainable pathway in the apparel industry, on a joint solution.

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CES 2022 See the News

Patagonia & Samsung Collaborate to Reduce Microplastics

As part of Samsung’s CES 2022 keynote, we shared our “Together for Tomorrow” vision that underscores how we’re developing technology for a more sustainable future. Innovation and collaboration are central to that vision and key to addressing environmental challenges like microplastics.

Together, Samsung and Patagonia are working on a practical, effective, and expandable way to reduce the microplastics that are released into the environment from textiles and laundry. Leveraging Patagonia’s extensive research, Samsung is designing a sophisticated new washing machine that lets consumers safely wash their favorite garments while minimizing the impact of microplastics. And this eco-conscious solution will come without compromising the high-performance cleaning and care that Samsung’s washers are known for.

This is only the latest in a series of steps Samsung is taking to create long-lasting appliances that improve environmental sustainability.

  • Samsung’s AI OptiWash feature on our washers uses sensors to determine the weight of the load and the level of soiling to ensure that the optimal amount of water, detergent, and energy is used to get that specific load clean. The feature cuts down water waste and energy consumption, while providing consumers with a personalized laundry experience.
  • Also, Samsung’s FlexWash washer provides the ultimate washing flexibility, with two separately controlled washers in the same unit, so consumers can wash different types of laundry at the same time. This includes an option to let consumers conveniently wash smaller loads.

Collaborations like the one between Samsung and Patagonia can help turn the tide on ocean pollution. With our commitment to sustainable living, Samsung will continue working to design products that minimize impacts on the environment. After all, the best way to get plastics out of our oceans is to try to prevent them from ending up there in the first place.

[1]Microplastic Pollution in Deep-Sea Sediments from the Great Australian Bight,” CSIRO, (2020)
[2]Breaking the Plastic Wave,” Pew Charitable Trusts (2020)
[3]Invisibles: The Plastic Inside Us,” Orb Media, (2017)
[4]No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People,” World Wide Fund For Nature, (2019)
 
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