The technology developed by HKRITA, called Acousweep, utilises sweeping acoustic waves in a specially shaped chamber to physically trap and separate microplastic fibres from wastewater effectively. The separated microplastics can then be collected for further treatment, such as recycling.

Acousweep is a plug-and-play application, which can be easily transported and connected to any wastewater facility. If implemented at an industrial scale, the technology will significantly impact the fashion industry’s sustainable footprint. The existing lab-scale treatment system handles 20 litres of water per hour while the upscaled version will be able to treat 5.000-10.000 litres of water per hour.

H&M Foundation supports disruptive research that can contribute to a planet-positive fashion future. Christiane Dolva, strategy lead at H&M Foundation, said: “As a non-profit, we have the urgent opportunity to create change by supporting disruptive research that could lead us there. Innovation is transformation and Acousweep is proof that it’s worth investing in impatient research.”

Professor Christine Loh, the chief development strategist at the Institute for the Environment, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, agrees that this technology has great potential. She said: “Green-tech has just taken a leap forward in Hong Kong. Acousweep will help the garment and other industries to stop a highly damaging form of pollution. HKRITA used a new technique to remove the microplastics by using a soundwave-based system, preventing them from getting into the sea and being ingested by sea life that can even be ingested by humans along the food chain.”

Microplastic pollution is a globally established problem and a threat to ecosystems, animals, and people. A major source of oceanic microplastic pollution, about 16%-35% globally, comes from synthetic textiles.

The support of the H&M Foundation has enabled HKRITA to develop Acousweep technology, which it says has the capacity to revolutionise the industry and address this critical issue.