Calls to fit all washing machines with microfibre filters

brett mathews | 9th January 2019

LONDON – The UK Government should pass legislation to require all new washing machines sold in the country to be fitted with microfibre filters. A submission to the ongoing UK’s enquiry into the sustainability of the UK fashion industry argues that in-machine filtration represents the most “quick and cost-effective way of preventing microfibres polluting … water systems and thence the marine environment.” The submission also claims such a measure would place the UK at the forefront of international efforts to address this form of ocean pollution.

The submission comes from Mark Nichols, CEO of technology business, Xeros Technology Group plc, one of a number of solutions providers which is seeking to provide answers to the ongoing crisis around microfibre shedding. In a statement to the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee, Mr Nichols added: “As a subsequent consideration, the committee should consider whether the current environmental labelling of all new washing machines is fit for purpose, with specific regard to microfibres and water use. A clear and accurate labelling system for new washing machines would enable consumers to make positive choices about products fitted with technology to prevent microfibre pollution and reduce water consumption.”

It is now acknowledged that up to 1.7 grams of microfibres for a single fleece garment and up to 700,000 microfibres can be released into the environment from each load of domestic laundry. The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (‘NFWI’) estimates that in the UK alone, households could be responsible for releasing more than 9 trillion microfibers from washing machines every year. The process of washing clothes containing synthetic fibres has now been identified as the single biggest contributor to primary microplastic pollution in the ocean, accounting for more than a third of all primary microplastics entering the oceans every year.

Added Nichols: “The committee should consider whether new labelling standards are required for garment production that directly references the amount of water used during the production process (potentially building on work done by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index) and the potential for microfibre shedding, and if so, whether Government legislation could/should support such a move.”

Xeros is currently said to be talking to major in-home laundry brands – global washing machine manufacturers – about fitting filters into their products. Adds Nichols: “This filter captures up to 99 per cent of microfibres and its installation in new domestic washing machines represents the quickest and most effective way to tackle this problem. We are also working … to conduct 3rd party testing of our filter, as part of … work on microfibres.”