Microfibre plastic pollution is one of the most pervasive and preventable forms of microplastic pollution, with 35% of total microplastics released into the environment being shed from clothing, mainly during the wash cycle – a staggering 9.4 trillion microplastic fibres per week from laundry in the UK. Due to their tiny size, microfibres are too small to be caught by existing washing machines and can end up in the wastewater system, where they can remain in sewage sludge and spread on to our growing crops, or are released into rivers and marine environments.
With the growth of the UK retail market for fast fashion means and the average consumer buying 60% more clothing than they did 15 years ago, there is an urgent need for Government and garment producers to work together to identify and implement strategies to mitigate microfibre plastic release as much as is feasible.
In September 2021 the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Microplastics published its first report – Microplastics Policies for the Government. Key recommendations include:
- the fitting of microfibre filters in all new domestic and commercial washing machines from 2025;
- an emphasis on the role of education and awareness of microplastics through targeted public behaviour communication campaigns;
- the appointment of a designated ‘Minister for Plastics Pollution’ who would have a clear remit for the control and prevention of plastic pollution
On 30 November 2021 a private members bill was introduced by Alberto Costa MP (Chair of APPG on microplastics) to encourage the UK Government to work with washing machine manufacturers to set standards to ensure all new domestic and commercial washing machines are fitted with a microfibre plastic-catching filter. The bill will have its second reading in the UK’s House of Commons on 6 May 2022 (postponed from original date of 18 March).
The political representatives of KIMO UK agreed, at their board meeting on 4 March 2022, to contact their respective MPs ahead of the second reading and urge them to support the bill. At the same meeting, KIMO UK also agreed to actively lobby in support of the introduction of an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for textiles. Furthermore, KIMO UK will highlight this issue in its response to the Scottish Government’s Marine Litter Strategy consultation and actively participate in the AAPG on microplastics.