As the problems of microplastics and water scarcity persist, businesses are looking to new technologies to encourage greater consumer and corporate water stewardship.
Platform technology company Xeros Technologies has developed a washing machine component capable of removing microfibers from home laundry wastewater.
According to research from Eunomia Research & Consulting, approximately 190 thousand tons of microplastics from textiles are leaked into the marine ecosystem each year. A 2016 study pioneered by Patagonia and conducted by the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management also found that a single fleece jacket can shed up to 250,000 microfibers during a single wash. The fibers are so small that they pass through wastewater treatment facilities and enter our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans where they make their way into the food chain.
Researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia and the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health recently discovered that microfibers have now infiltrated global drinking water. While the impact of this on human health is not yet understood, nor have effective solutions been developed to treat water contaminated with microplastics, technologies such as Xeros Technologies’ filter could prove critical in preventing them from leaking into the environment to begin with.
Rather than require wastewater treatment plants to spend on massive capital improvement projects, Xeros’ filtering innovation, XFiltra, greatly reduces microfibers from entering the environment by addressing the problem directly where the microfibers are created in the home washing machine.
XFiltra can be used with any washing machine and includes an integrated pump, filter and dewatering device. Unfiltered water enters the XFiltra where the microfibers are trapped and are spun dry into a solid disk for easy removal. When the filter is ready for cleaning, it can be opened and the dry microfiber disk removed for disposal.
Wastewater from rooftop rainwater collection, cooling towers, showers, sinks, toilets and urinals will be collected, treated in a centralized treatment center and recirculated through a separate pipe system to serve non-potable uses in the building. The system will reduce drinking water demand by saving up to 30,000 gallons of fresh water a day, 7.8 million gallons a year, equivalent to the annual water consumption of 16,000 San Francisco residents.
Salesforce Tower’s blackwater system will be the product of the first partnership in the US between a city government (City of San Francisco), building owner (Boston Properties) and tenant to support blackwater reuse in a commercial high-rise building. The system will provide water recycling for all tenants in Salesforce Tower and offers a blueprint for how other companies looking to make a positive impact can harness sustainable innovation.
“In our ongoing commitment to reduce our environmental footprint, Salesforce Tower gives us an opportunity to reinvent core building impact,” said Suzanne DiBianca, EVP of Corporate Relations and Chief Philanthropy Officer at Salesforce. “We’re excited to install a state-of-the-art water recycling system to lead that effort at a scale that has never been done before in a commercial high-rise building. Since our founding, Salesforce has been committed to equality for all stakeholders, which includes improving the state of the world through our business.”
Since the company’s founding, Salesforce has harnessed its culture of innovation to incorporate sustainability into all facets of its business, starting with delivering value to customers through its energy-efficient cloud. The company has since achieved net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, 33 years ahead of its original commitment.