A new washing machine design uses 90 percent less water and reduces utility bills by 30 percent by cleaning clothes with tiny plastic beads.
The machine by UK company Xeros Ltd uses 3mm-long nylon beads that can get into all crevices and folds of clothing and absorb stains and dirt. Stephen Burkinshaw, a polymer chemist at Leeds University, discovered that nylon beads at 100 percent humidity could attract stains away from clothing and into the center of the beads, preventing deposition back onto the clothes.
The machine uses a small amount of water to dampen the clothes and to reach the right humidity level, then the drum is flooded with the beads. When the cycle is complete the beads drain away with the water to be reused hundreds of times.
I'm sure you've already started questioning what happens to these plastic beads once they're done scrubbing clothes. The company wants to eventually create a closed loop where the saturated beads can be refreshed and reused in the machines, but for the time being they will be collected and recycled.
Xeros says that if all of the US used these machines instead of regular washing machines, it would save 1.2 billion tonnes of water per year and the CO2 emissions saved would equal taking 5 million cars off the road. The machine would also eliminate the need to dry clean many delicates, another environmental benefit. The Xeros machine is expected to be available by the end of next year.
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