The washing of synthetic textiles is the largest contributor to microplastic pollution, accounting for 35% of all microplastic pollution. The tiny toxic particles of plastic make their way up the food chain starting with aquatic organisms and cause issues of infection, reproductive problems, and starvation along the way. Every time we use washing machines to clean our clothing garments made of polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc., synthetic fibers (aka microplastics) break off from our clothing and enter oceans and rivers through wastewater harming our ecosystems and environment. This is a huge environmental problem that many, including myself up until recently, aren’t aware of! Fortunately, the Guppyfriend washing bag can be a part of the solution. By putting garments made from synthetic materials in this smooth laundry bag that reduces friction during the wash cycle, 86% fewer fibers break on average, and the fibers that do break are collected in the corners of the bag to be disposed of in a closed waste container. So not only does the Guppyfriend preserve the quality of clothes for longer, but it also stops the microplastic pollution of the oceans.
In general, I think the product’s purpose is very sustainable! It helps curb a very specific and large environmental issue, and it promotes sustainable lifestyle habits. For instance, the increased longevity of our clothing implies that we don’t have to replace our clothing as often. Guppyfriend also encourages other ways to reduce microplastic pollution when laundering, such as using cold water, reducing rotation speed, separating hard and soft textiles, no tumble dry, and of course, washing less. However, due to the limited information I could find for how and where the Guppyfriend is manufactured, the planet rating is not as high as it could be. The Guppyfriend does retail for around $34.95, which is on the pricier side for what is essentially just a bag, but if the issue is important to you, I do think the price is worth it especially because of its durability and sales of the bag support the STOP! Micro Waste nonprofit. It’s also important to note that while products like the Guppyfriend or the Coraball (see the Coraball Voiz review) are useful in reducing the environmental impact of plastics, they are not enough to address the systematic causes of plastic pollution. Greater action needs to be taken.
It’s a little ironic that a bag intended to reduce synthetic textile pollution is also made from plastic. However, the Guppyfriend, with the exception of the zipper, is made entirely of untreated and undyed polyamide 6.6, a synthetic material that is made of monofilaments that are more structurally stiff than fibers and therefore unlikely to break off and become microplastic pollution. Polyamide 6.6 can also be found in other textiles like bras and engineering plastics like cars. Though it’s not great that it requires plastic to produce the Guppyfriend, the bag has been independently tested to withstand at least 50 washes flawlessly. And if the instructions for use are correctly followed, the washing bag can last much longer. On their website, Guppyfriend proudly claims that most of their early adopters from back in 2017 still use their first Guppyfriend washing bag. Additionally, when it comes time to say goodbye to the bag, it can be completely recycled (again with the exception of the zipper which can be removed before recycling) by local recycling facilities. The only caveat to this is that recycled materials currently cannot be used to make high-tech fabrics, so old washing bags cannot be used to make new Guppyfriends. Despite the use of plastic to reduce plastic pollution, I do think the Guppyfriend is worth the polyamide 6.6 used to make it because at least all the plastic used in this laundry process (both the bag composition and the microplastic) will hopefully be disposed of properly instead of ending up in our oceans. It also comes in 100% plastic-free packaging.
On the Guppyfriend website, there is essentially no information about the production process of these bags other than a little graphic that says “fairly produced.” Because Guppyfriend is a part of the German self-proclaimed sustainable clothing brand, LANGBRETT, I also explored their website to see if I could find any more information. As a group of surfers and nature lovers, LANGBRETT describes on their website the many ways they are producing in the most sustainable manner such as having fair working conditions, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification, chrome-free production, closed-loop, and cyclable transport distances from factories to stores. LANGBRETT factories are apparently located in Portugal, Germany, and Spain. Employees in these production facilities are treated well: they have regulated working hours, are covered for sick days, and earn a living income above the standard wage in Portugal. If you are in the U.S. or Canada, Guppyfriend washing bags are shipped from a warehouse in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, LANGBRETT doesn’t specify that the Guppyfriend is made in the same factories as its shoes and clothing. In fact, a reviewer of the bag by the name of Welcome Objects also noted that it’s impossible to find any manufacturing information. According to her review, on the box, it actually says made in China. Unfortunately, it seems as though Guppyfriend has taken advantage of its sustainable purpose and LANGBRETT branding to avoid sharing details about how it was made, which is extremely ironic given that the LANGBRETT website emphasizes the importance of “knowing where it comes from.”
Alexander Nolte and Oliver Spies, the co-owners of LANGBRETT who were tormented by the problem of microfiber plastic pollution, came up with the idea for the Guppyfriend over a beer-accompanied brainstorming meeting. They had already started a non-profit organization, STOP! Micro Waste, (sales of the Guppyfriend also go to support this non-profit) to educate the public about microplastic pollution, but they still were the owners of a clothing brand that makes apparel that requires high-tech synthetic fibers. This washing bag was the answer to their problems because synthetic materials could still be used when absolutely necessary without the harmful impacts during the laundering process. Nolte and Spies are also working with Deutsche Textilforschungszentrum to create a metric to measure the number of fiber losses for a given textile. It’s great to see founders so truly passionate about the environmental issue they are trying to address; it’s obvious that their intentions for the Guppyfriend are genuine. My only critique is derived from the issue I had with the Guppyfriend in the How It’s Made section: the lack of information about the manufacturing process, and therefore, who makes it. The Guppyfriend is very transparent regarding its material composition, usage, substitute options, and I would be interested in seeing the same level of transparency when it comes to its employees.