Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Some environmental causes grab our attention; others go ignored. Many of us are aware of the way microplastics persist in the environment, but that’s largely down to a highly effective campaign to ban microbeads in cosmetics (which became law in the UK back in 2018). Perhaps the bigger menace is synthetic fibres, which represent the single largest source of microplastic pollution in our oceans (some 35 per cent, according to scientists). Much of this comes from washing machine wastewater, and yet this is rarely talked about. Fibres from synthetic clothing exit our washing machines, enter the ecosystem and end up everywhere from the Mariana Trench to our dinner plates. “We know where it’s coming from,” says Planetcare’s founder Mojca Zupan. “We know exactly how to stop it. So why don’t we do it?”
Zupan’s small Slovenian start-up invented a way of filtering out these plastic fibres some eight years ago, and has been calling on governments to pass legislation and appliance manufacturers to incorporate the technology ever since. But while those slow-moving gears continue to grind away, consumers who care about such things can use Planetcare’s own product – now in its new second iteration – which connects (via hoses) between the washing machine and the drain, and can either be hidden under the sink, attached to the machine or bolted to a wall. It doesn’t require power, captures 98 per cent of microfibres and lets you know when the filter cartridge is full. You then send it back to Planetcare where the fibres are safely removed and collected. (Replacements can be sent out automatically for a subscription fee of £6.48 per month.)
Uses for these microfibres are still being explored by Planetcare, ranging from chemical recycling to designer plastic furniture. They just need us to send them more of the stuff, in the safe knowledge that we’re fuelling systemic change. “Without the community of people using this product, I’d just be a crazy lady with a prototype filter,” says Zupan. “But because of them, I have a voice. And the snowball is rolling. France has already brought in some legislation. There’s no stopping it.” PlanetCare Microfibre Filter 2.0 XL starter kit, £154
Suck it and see
Having used a few robot vacuum and mop combos and found them gruelling to keep clean in the longer term, it’s a relief to see the Dyson Vis Nav sticking to one job (dust-sucking) which it performs with typical Dyson-esque gusto: six times the suction power of its competitors and nimbly ascending thick rugs without a hitch.
Its other forte is mapping: 360º vision, decent obstacle avoidance and a pretty unerring sense of where it is, even when I slyly move the charging dock while it’s asleep. It automatically works harder in dusty environments, and this can see it return for a recharge in order to properly finish the job – but hey, if I’m out for the day it can take as long as it likes. Dyson 360 Vis Nav, £1,199.99
The design of this neat counter-top dishwasher – the world’s smallest, no less – reminds me of an old Apple Power Mac G3, and thus gives me a warm, nostalgic glow. There’s nothing retro about its performance, though, dealing effectively with a two-person, lunch-sized load of plates, cups, saucepan and cutlery in 15 minutes flat. It also rinses fruit and veg, and has a UV-sterilising mode for baby bottles. You don’t even have to plumb it in unless you want to: the drain hose can clip to the sink, and it can take in water through a small translucent water tank that you fill up before use. A huge crowdfunding success back in 2021, it’s now shipping worldwide. Loch Electronics Dishwasher, £349.99
To dry for
The humble dehumidifier has recently seen its stock rise as the wider world recognises its ability to dry racks of clothes in a greener, more energy-efficient way than a tumble dryer ever could. Higher-spec machines tend to come with a “laundry mode”, and this new model from Dutch-based Princess is no exception; it also comes with a sizeable six-litre storage tank (so less frequent emptying needed) and, crucially, remote operation via WiFi. Pairing with a smartphone was slightly unintuitive, but we got there in the end, and the app allowed us to switch in and out of laundry mode, and set target humidity levels, timers and schedules. Helping stop the build up of mould on condensation-prone window frames was just a beautiful bonus. Princess smart dehumidifier, £280, diy.com
Out damp spot
I never had any need for a spot-cleaning machine until our son was born, but at that moment it became a necessity. A previous decision we’d made to fit light-coloured carpets proved to be a terrible mistake, but a spot cleaner made things just about bearable. This new steam-equipped model from Bissell has a smaller water tank than others in its range, but does a more thorough job; you can switch between using water for everyday stains, steam for curtains and upholstery, or a turbocharged mixture of both for once-beautiful rugs now covered in god-knows-what. It stores away neatly, is easily whisked out in moments of mild catastrophe, and does the kind of pro job you’d pay someone to do for you. Bissell Spotclean Hydrosteam, £299.99