Young people use moss to create filter that traps microplastics

Young Colombians win prize for creating a filter made from moss that retains microplastics in the water; get to know the project.

Colombian students win biodesign competition using nature to combat plastic pollution

Moss, a simple plant present on rocks and logs, is already known for its ability to purify water in the Andes region. Now, young Colombians have discovered that he is also capable of retaining microplastics —and can be part of a filter that can be used on the tap at home, informs the Fast Company.

At the beginning of 2022, a group of design students from the University of the Andes, in Bogotá (Colombia), visited Parámo, the ecosystem responsible for producing 70% of the fresh water consumed in the country. There, they were enchanted by the properties of sphagnum, a type of moss that retains water from rain, fog and melting glaciers and stores it in the soil to then filter and release it little by little onto the plain, ready for human consumption.

This natural ability of moss, widely found on the edge of lakes and streams, to retain microplastics was already somewhat known, but it had never been applied to something as everyday as a water filter. 

The filter created by Colombian students was called Mus(t)Go and won the 2022 edition of Biodesign Challenge Summit, a biodesign education and competition program with Google as a sponsor. 

The product has a stainless steel propeller that rotates the water so that the microplastics are released, and are then retained by the moss membrane, which carries out the cleaning process. According to the inventors, it retains 80 grams of microplastics in two months, an amount equivalent to that of 16 credit cards.

Mus(t)Go is not yet for sale, and was designed for use in vulnerable communities, where it can be attached to taps and hoses. According to the project website, the filter needs to be changed every 2 months (the product must come from the factory with 3 spare parts).

The used filter will be disposed of in an appropriate place, in a type of system drop off. As the filter cannot be recycled, the students are now looking for business partners to transform the moss and microplastic waste into a bioplastic product.

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