Microplastics, Major Problems


Charlie Wittenberg

Charlie Wittenberg


Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management

Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management


Megan Buchter

Megan Buchter

Global Goals

3. Good Health and Well-Being 6. Clean Water and Sanitation 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

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Cleanr is a company that focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of cleaning the water supply through their creation of a microplastic filtration system that works in at-home washing machines. Washing machines are the number one emitter of microplastics into the environment, a phenomenon that poses significant health risks as they break down into nano-plastics and infiltrate the food chain, water supply, and human bodies.


When Chip Miller, Max Pennington, and David Dillman had another late night tinkering session at Case Western Reserve University, they had no idea what would come next. The fraternity brothers, using fish's natural filtration process as inspiration, created a new technology that filters and captures microplastics released into the environment by at-home washing appliances. They took a red solo cup, attached a coarse mesh filter on it, and ran it through the wash. What they found was disgusting, and what started as a hobby was about to turn into something huge.

Washing machines are the number one source of microplastics emitted into the environment, meaning that there is a ton of potential to improve this sector. The new microplastic filtration technology functions efficiently in preexisting washing machines. By using the water pumps of the machines to push water through internal and external filters. These filters are durable and easy to clean, making them easy to use. Their filtration system capitalizes on newly passed European legislation surrounding microplastics and washing machines. For instance, Commission Regulation (EU) 2023/2055 seeks to ban all microplastic emitting products like glitter from market places while also ensuring that new filtration systems are put into place. Notably, France became the first European country to introduce legislation, requiring every new washing machine to have a microplastic catching filter by 2025. In an interview with Co-Founder and COO Chip Miller, he stated that at the moment, the company's target market exists in Europe. However, with newly proposed legislation and rebate programs being implemented in certain American states, this could soon evolve.

Microplastics, Major Problems


The idea for the innovation was inspired by an emerging literature on microplastics, human health, and the environment. Studies have come out claiming that humans eat an average of 5 grams of microplastics every week, equivalent to a credit card of plastic. The effects of these microplastics are not entirely clear, but the literature suggests a litany of health complications may be in store. This information was enough to inspire Chip and co, and when combined with his internal drive to “make a better world for my children’s children”, a vision emerged.

Overall impact

Cleanr’s microplastic filtration system has changed the filtration game while providing education on the existence and potential effects of microplastics. With efforts to produce sustainable clothing may have reached the mainstream household, very little is known about the cleaning process and how it produces microplastics while polluting the water supply. The team believes that sustainable clothing is not the key to environmental safety as they still produce microplastics when inside of at-home washing machines. By applying Cleanr technology to already owned household appliances, people everywhere can change their future outcomes and clean up the environment.

The team is constantly learning the business aspect of things and has a team of advisors put in place that helps them out. Their market driven solution has begun to see lots of recognition, notably winning six “Best of IFA 2023” awards at the IFA Berlin. They have been reviewed by CNN and are recognized as a “significant breakthrough in microplastic filtration.” The short and long-term effects of the work are yet to be realized as the literature on microplastics and their effects are still very recent. However, the rush to legislate protective measures against microplastics indicates that they could be onto something huge.

Cleanr technology has the ability to impact the business world, societal and environmental health, and shows the positive side of market driven solutions to climate issues. It offers an effortless way to combat the harmful effects of microplastics and clean up the water supply, ensuring a safer tomorrow for everyone. What started as a passion for creating and a drive to help the world turned into a sustainable business where everyone profits. Let this be a lesson to all the creative minds out there, keep on tinkering.

Business benefit

Cleanr technology has the ability to impact the business world, societal and environmental health, and shows the positive side of market driven solutions to climate issues. It offers an effortless way to combat the harmful effects of microplastics and clean up the water supply, ensuring a safer tomorrow for everyone.

They currently have a worldwide team of over 50 people, indicating both the seriousness of the issue as well as the collaborative environment created by Cleanr. They work on a 24 hour clock, allowing them to continually improve their product while collaborating remotely. New legislation in Europe and the United States is a is continuing to emerge, pushing the team to help washing machine companies with issues as they appear.

Social and environmental benefit

Microplastics and nanoplastics are known to have harmful effects on human health. Several studies have linked microplastics with increased instances of autism and cancer. Nanoplastics in particular pose a particular threat to humans due to their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Although the exact health effects of microplastics and nanoplastics are largely still unknown, a lot of evidence points to significant adverse effects. For this reason, keeping microplastics out of the water supply is a major concern.

Cleanr’s product is able to address the root of the microplastic problem at the source, before the microplastics are able to break down into nanoplastics in the water. By installing the filter in the actual washing machine, Cleanr is able to remove the more easily filterable microplastics as the water is draining from the washing machine, keeping the microplastics emitted by washing machines out of the general water supply. By doing this, Cleanr is able to neutralize the greatest source of microplastic emissions into the water, greatly impacting the environment and general health of the human population.


Chip Miller, Co-Founder

Business information



Cleveland, Ohio, Worldwide
Business Website:
Year Founded: 2020
Number of Employees: 51 to 200

Cleanr is a company that focuses on creating sustainable ways to tackle the issue of microplastics in the environment. As the emerging literature on microplastics, their sources, and their harmful effects continues to evolve, Cleanr looks poised to strike as a major player in the development of solutions against the issue. Founded by three former CWRU students, the company is youthful and ready to navigate an increasingly modern and globalized business world.