Politicians and Scientists Get Serious About Tackling Microfibre Pollution

This week marks a pivotal moment for companies, NGOs and scientists who are serious about tackling microfibre pollution from laundry.

Earlier this week, the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for Microplastics released a report calling on Westminster to pass legislation mandating microfibre filtration in all domestic and commercial washing machines by 2025. 

And on Tuesday night we were honoured to join policy experts, leading academics and environmental NGOs at the report launch in Parliament.

We even created a microfibre dinner that definitely looked better than it tasted...

To highlight that microfibres from washing our clothes are heading for our seas, and our plates, we showcased a seafood menu made from microfibres collected from washing machines.

Full table_v2

The menu included oysters served with a side of bright red polyester and dyed cotton and the "food" was created by Kate Jenkins, a knitwear and crochet artist.

How does washing clothes our clothes pollute the sea?

Every year 280,000 tonnes of synthetic microfibres are released into the world’s ocean from the simple act of washing clothes.

Plastic particles break off synthetic clothes and enter the oceans as wastewater (they are too small to be captured at wastewater plants). They make up 35% of all primary microplastics entering the oceans every year 

Alarmingly, just one load of laundry can release up to 700,000 microfibres and a synthetic fleece jacket releases an average of 1.7g of microfibres every time it's washed

Recent studies have found microfibres reached even the most remote parts of the arctic. And are increasingly turning up in the food we eat, particularly seafood. It is estimated that we are eating 5 grams of microplastics per week, the equivalent of eating a credit card!

You can read more on how to stop the microplastics in your clothes from polluting the ocean in one of our previous blogs. 

Above image: Left to right, Nicky Amos, Director of Public Affairs at the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Alberto Costa MP, Chair of the APPG for Microplastics, Rebecca Pow MP, Minister for the Environment, and Ann Jones, Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes enjoying The Xeros Microfibre Dinner at the report launch in Parliament. 

What's in the report?

The APPG report draws on work done by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes which has campaigned on the issue of microfibre pollution. A NFWI report in 2018 found that UK households were doing around 68 million loads of laundry every week and releasing more than 9 trillion microfibres.  As well as requesting microfibre filtration in all domestic and commercial washing machines by 2025, the APPG report also calls for: 

  • A Government-led awareness campaign to promote consumer behaviour change 
  • A designated Minister for Plastics Pollution 
  • An Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme for textiles by 2023 

XerosWestminsterOvers_230-JPGAbove image: The All-Party Parliamentary Group's report on Microplastics.

Ann Jones, Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes said:

This report is a clarion cry for action to turn the tide on the plastic pollution that is blighting our marine environments.

Our own research found at least 9.4 trillion microplastic fibres could be released every week in the UK through the washing process. With every day that passes by, our rivers and seas are becoming more choked with plastic waste.

The scale of the problem is huge, but the solutions are increasingly close at hand. By fitting filters to washing machines, making textile producers responsible for the waste their products create and appointing a Minister to bring Departments together we can make a huge difference.

Mark Nichols, CEO of Xeros Technologies PLC shared his thoughts in the APPG's Press Release. 

At Xeros we have long held that microfibre filtration must become mandatory in domestic and commercial washing machines and garment finishing equipment.

 

Our journey began with a very public commitment to the UN Oceans Conference to produce an effective filtration solution for washing machines. Since then, the issue of microfibre pollution in the environment and our precious oceans has grown exponentially.

 

The work of the NFWI in highlighting the issue of microfibre pollution caused by laundry helped bring this to the attention of the general public and, by extension, the work of the APPG on Microplastics is now bringing the matter to the attention of government and decision-makers who can make a real difference.

 

Effective microfibre filtration in washing machines is the quickest and most cost-effective way to mitigate the release of microplastic from laundry to aquatic environments. By calling for legislation in the UK, the APPG Microplastics is taking an important step towards making this a reality.

Read more about our internal microfibre washing machine filter and how it helps consumers cut microfibre and microplastic pollution in our oceans, here.