From petition to legislation: how your signature makes an impact

For campaigns and petitions to bring about change, the idea or goal of the campaign must be feasible. We need to consider if our goals can be practically achieved, taking into account things like public support, costs to the public and businesses, harm being done and ease of implementation, among many other things.

Our Stop Ocean Threads campaign can put this into context. We know that in-built washing machine filters for microfibres are possible and available (I’ve seen the technology in action, and it’s pretty impressive!). Cost wise, The Times suggested that it could add as little as £30 to the final price consumers would pay for a washing machine. So, we have the technology, and the assurance that it wouldn’t be of huge cost to the public… next we need to convince washing machine manufacturers.

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Firstly, the component costs are likely to be a fraction of this quoted final price. However, manufacturers need assurances that, with an extra £30 added, consumers will still purchase their washing machines when an in-built filter is added. Encouragingly, our YouGov survey found that a quarter (26%) of British adults would be willing to pay an additional £50 or more for a washing machine which included a microfibre filter compared to one that didn’t.

We then need the public to tell manufacturers themselves that they are supportive, which is where the petition comes into play. The more signatures we have, the more pressure we’re able to put on not just washing machine manufacturers, but also government, to implement legislation which obliges manufacturers to include the filters.

Houses of Parliament - London

In the meantime, we’re working hard behind the scenes. We’ve been speaking with washing machine manufacturers, trade organisations and MPs, alongside lobbying industry insiders and looking at how to progress a potential trade standard which would define what a microfibre filter filters (an important detail especially since one claimed they already had a filter but it was the one for capturing coins!).

One of the challenges is that our clothes generate the problem, releasing microfibres during washing. Currently, it’s the water industry that is on the receiving end of dealing with microfibres. Some cross-industry working has sprung up with water companies, fashion brands and washing machine manufacturers, which is encouraging. However, they need to move towards resolving some of the core issues, such as putting an industry standard for filters in place. If washing machine manufacturers can fit them then the water industry will receive less microplastics and microfibres in its waste. This would be a win-win for all industries involved and the fashion brands help contribute to a solution for a problem they have generated.

An MP once told me that MPs will only vote on issues that their constituents have shown they care about. So, when the time is right for us to lobby for legislation, we’ll be asking you to write to your local MP to push for ambitious legislation and action. In the meantime, thanks for signing our petition, it’s the first step in a longer journey and we hope that you will join us along the way in supporting our drive for change to, in the end, reduce the amount of plastic entering our ocean every day.

To get involved and help us create all important legislation, please sign our petition here.