Stop Ocean Threads: What happens next?
2 minute read
Last month, we handed a petition containing over 44,000 of your signatures to 10 Downing Street, calling for the introduction of mandatory microfibre filters for washing machines by 2024.
This was an important milestone in our work to tackle microfibre pollution, and it wouldn’t have been possible without our supporters.
Our clothes are made of millions of tiny fibres, the majority of which are plastic. With every wash, these fibres shed from our clothes and are carried down our drains and into the environment. The best way to stop the flow of microfibres into our ocean is to fit filters in washing machines, tackling pollution at source. This simple step would lead to a massive reduction in microplastic pollution, a third of which is from us washing our clothes.
Credit: Victoria Riglen
Over the past few years, we’ve been tirelessly campaigning to make filters mandatory and worked with Beko to release the world’s first integrated washing machine filter. We’ve also worked extensively with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and the National Federation of Womens’ Institutes. I have personally attended several events at Parliament, meeting MPs from across all parties.
As a result of our work in this area, the issue, and solution, to microfibre pollution was recognised in the UK Government’s ‘Plan for Water’, which was great news. This was the first time an expectation to develop microplastic fibre capture filters has been included in Government plans. However, this stopped short of the much-needed legislation, with the government instead expecting “industry to develop low cost, effective microfibre filters on washing machines and encourage their effective use.”
Fortunately, many companies have started to develop filters, including washing machine manufacturers such as Beko, as well as research and development businesses. The technology to effectively tackle microfibre pollution does exist and can be implemented. Other countries are already taking action, with French legislation requiring microfibre filters to be fitted to all new machines by 1st January 2025.
Despite the progress we’ve made and the handing in of our petition, our work isn’t done yet. We’ll continue to influence washing machine manufacturers, working with large investment companies who hold significant shares in these companies.
The Washing Machine Bill, which Alberto Costa MP introduced through a Privates Members Bill, will continue in Parliament over the coming months, with MPs debating and determining how far the Bill progresses.
Credit: Alberto Costa MP
We would like to see the new Defra Secretary of State, Steve Barclay, support and encourage businesses and to write to washing machine manufacturers to remind them of the expectation to develop washing machine filters. Ultimately, we need legislation. Companies themselves have said that they need accompanying legislation to ensure that they develop and fit filters as required, and to provide a level playing field.
It is easy to forget just how far we have come since we first started working on microfibre pollution. Developing the solutions is the hard part, but by now, there are a whole host of ways to combat the blight of microfibres on the marine environment. All we need to do is make sure that they become standard!