Ocean Plastics

Marine Conservation Society calls for microfibre filters in washing machines to slow the tide of ocean plastic

written by Oceanographic Staff

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has launched a new campaign, Stop Ocean Threads, which calls for all new washing machines to be fitted with microfibre filters, by law, by 2024. The aim is to stop plastic pollution at the source by filtering out microscopic plastics from washing machine waste water.

Our clothes are made of millions of tiny fibres, many of which are plastic, in fabrics including polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide. With every wash and wear, these microfibres shed from our clothes and can end up in the environment. A single wash can release over 700,000 microfibres into wastewater, many of which then end up in the ocean.

Research conducted by YouGov on behalf of MCS revealed that 81% of the adults surveyed supported legislative change and 26% of those said that they would be willing to pay an additional £50 or more for a washing machine fitted with a microfibre filter. These results indicate that there is clear public support for legislation to stem the flow of microplastics into the ocean, and that consumers are willing to pay extra for their washing machines to have ocean-friendly credentials.

“Our research has found that the public is largely supportive of our call for legislation, and consumers are willing to pay a little more to reduce the flow of microplastics into the ocean,” said Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at MCS. “It’s fantastic to see the support our petition has received so far, but now we need the public to show their support and join our action to engage with manufacturers directly. If we can show manufacturers that the public wants these filters fitted as soon as possible, we hope to speed up the legislative process and get filters fitted in the near future.”

It is becoming increasingly important to place ocean microplastics at the top of the agenda for washing machine manufacturers who can take action now helping to address the issue, rather than waiting for legislation to be put in place. Washing synthetic clothes accounts for 35% of primary microplastics found in the environment. With an estimated 9.4 trillion fibres released from washes every week in the UK, it’s not surprising that billions of them end up in the ocean and on our beaches.

More than 12,000 people have already signed the Stop Ocean Threads petition, which asks UK Governments to bring in legislation that requires washing machine manufacturers to fit microfibre filters in all new domestic and commercial machines. The MCS is also encouraging members of the public to go to washing machine manufacturers via social media to raise awareness for the campaign.

Video by animator and illustrator Sam Pierpoint.

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