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LONDON – The UK Government is being called upon to push through legislation which would mandate microfibre washing machine filters as a near-term solution to the problem of microplastic pollution. Greenpeace, Fashion for Good, Plastic Soup Foundation and Fashion Revolution are among signatories to an open letter sent to the UK’s Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The letter expresses support of a proposed bill on the issue. The signatories want the UK to follow France which will make microfibre filters on washing machines mandatory from 2025. Estimates suggest washing machine filters can cut 90 per cent of the volume of microfibres released from laundering.

The letter points out that each year more than half a million tons of microfibres are released into the world’s oceans from washing our clothes. Many of these fibres are microplastic fibres – a single machine wash can shed up to 700,000 microplastics into the ecosystem. 

“Whilst addressing clothing overproduction and overconsumption is the ultimate solution to the microplastic problem, the installation of microfibre filters to laundering appliances presents itself as an immediate and effective solution,” the letter states.

It adds: “It is estimated that about 60 per cent of fibres used in clothing are synthetic, predominantly polyester and this amount is growing, with predictions estimating that by 2030 synthetic fibres will represent 73 per cent of fibre production, of which 85 per cent will be polyester.

“Fast fashion, which is associated with the growing use of fossil-based synthetic fibres, has a high impact on microplastic pollution.

“Microfibre filtration installation in washing machines is, for now, a readily-available and effective short to medium-term solution, that can be used in combination with developing upstream practices to slow the overall release of this pervasive source of plastic pollution.

“Further longer-term solutions include root-cause change at material design level, maximum thresholds on microplastic release, pre-washing with filters, informative labelling, promotion of responsible material selection, and improved regulations for wastewater and sewage sludge.”

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