Did you know that some of the most efficient household washing machine uses 60 – 70 litres per wash? Whether you look at this in absolute terms (25,500 litres per year per household conservatively) or as a percentage of the average per capita consumption of water (~ 30%), that is a lot of water used just for washing clothes. Mimbly ( https://www.mimbly.se ), a three year old Swedish startup comprising of four employees, is ready to do something about it. An innovation that grew from a student project in the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, Mimbly is getting ready to launch their solution for “sustainable laundry”. The Mimbox is a retrofit solution for existing washing machines, aimed at reducing water usage and microplastic pollution in water. Kapokseed spoke to Mimbly COO, Robin Griffiths, to find out about their unique product.
Tell us about your company and your product
We started when we were doing Masters program at the University. We saw that washing machine was lacking innovation for a long time. Just think about it – about 25% of the water, on an average, in a household goes towards laundry. Here we could make a real impact. We started building prototypes. We got ourselves enrolled as one of 8 companies out of couple of thousands, in the Ikea accelerator camp. Initially we were looking at a consumer product. However, with a high capital cost, we thought it better to address industrial needs first. The product is an add-on solution to the washing m/c. The outlet from the washing machine enters the Mimbox through a microplastics filter. These microplastics go to a separate container. The water is analyzed for certain parameters (a trade secret). We don’t want it to be drinking water quality, but we do want it to be clean enough to get your clothes clean. We remove bacterial contamination through an antimicrobial system and then this water is stored. When the washing machine needs water, the sensor will sense if there is any water in the tank, and if there is, water gets pumped back to the washing machine, supplementing it with tap water if necessary. That’s the basic technology. Our biggest innovation is the filter itself and the sensors and parameters that measure how clean it is
How much water do you typically recycle?
It depends a lot on the type of washing machine, but we are able to recycle 50 – 70 % of the total amount of water used in the washing machine. The first wash is typically let out due to high quantity of detergent. However, 100% of the wastewater from washing machine is filtered for microplastics.
What do you do with the microplastics that you collect?
As of now we throw it in the trash. In Sweden, trash is burnt as energy and that is the best scenario for the moment. Sweden has pretty strict laws for air pollution control, so this is a pretty good solution. We would like to collect and do something with it. But it is also a fact that it is blended with everything else that comes out of the washing m/c.
Do you see your microplastic filter being adopted by washing machines in the future?
That’s the plan! We are talking to some big white goods manufacturers to see how we can combine our technologies and integrate the system. Since we are currently targeting the existing washing machines in the market, it does make sense that the new machines are already equipped when they enter the market.
How do you measure the quality of the wash? Are there industry benchmarks for parameters for the ‘wash quality’ test ?
Unfortunately, there isn’t really any industry parameter for our application. We’re kind of inventing a new space here. What is “clean”? It is very subjective, and that’s where it becomes challenging. We are working with European testing facilities to see how we can create a testing protocol that will help the industry in getting some standards. We hope to be a leading star when it comes to making sustainable laundry solutions that the other companies can emulate.
How long can the water be stored in the mimbox? What kind of maintenance is required?
Currently, we are not storing water in the Mimbox for more than 20 hours. There is some maintenance required for the filters, sensors etc, and occasional cleaning.
Regarding the anti-microbial system, are you adding chemicals?
We are not adding anything. We use electrochemical water disinfection to activate the chlorides in the water into free chlorine.
How big is the Mimbox?
It is about half the width of a washing machine but as high and deep as the washing machine. Typically, one Mimbox can service two professional washing machines.
You seem to have a great prototype ready. Is it deployed somewhere outside the lab? When will you be ready for a market launch and do you have customers lined up?
We are currently running a pilot test with a cleaning company who clean a lot of mops and towels. It is a great test site and we are collecting a lot of data. We are also working with a big production facility. We have a development period with them and we hope to launch the Mimbox early next year.
We have around 20 customers lined up in Sweden and the Nordics – apartment complexes, hotels and cleaning companies.
I am assuming water is not really a big problem in Sweden. What is the incentive in adopting this technology?
You are right. In Sweden, water is not very expensive, although it is on the rise now. In Denmark and Germany, water prices are 5 to 8 times higher. With the higher water prices, we expect an ROI of 5 years in Sweden. And we expect this product to last at least 15 years. So both from a financial perspective as well as a branding perspective, it makes sense.
Mimbly is currently in the ImagineH2O accelerator program. This is one product we believe will be super useful for the huge hospitality industry across the world. We wish them all the best and look forward to a water-safe and microplastic free future!