Member of Parliament for South Leicestershire, Alberto Costa, and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Microplastics has recommended that the Government take stronger action on plastic policy.
Mr Costa has worked with MPs and Peers from all parties and over twenty cross-industry organisations to produce the APPG’s first report containing holistic policies focused on reducing microplastic pollution.
The report also explores the issues posed by plastic microfibres, which can be shed from textiles such as clothing when worn and laundered. It is estimated that 700,000 microfibres are released into our waterways during each use of a domestic washing machine.
Due to their size, they are too small to be caught by standard washing machines and can end up in the wastewater system. They can damage riverine and marine species and can subsequently enter into the human food chain.
The APPG held a series of stakeholder roundtables and a consultation to create six holistic policy recommendations which are supported by cross-industry sectors to reduce the effects of microplastic and microfibre pollution.
These include, appointing a designated Minister of Plastic Pollution (MOPP) to oversee plastic pollution prevention policies. The Minister would also have responsibility for the creation of a Microplastic Action Plan (MAP). This would set out an overall strategy for Government to help tackle microplastic release into the environment from all sources.
The report recommends that an Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme for textiles be introduced from 2023. This would be a year after the already planned DEFRA consultation on a scheme for textiles.
The report also recommends introducing legislation that would require all domestic washing machines to be fitted with a filter from 2025. This would significantly reduce the amount of plastic microfibres which end up in our rivers and seas.
Introducing microfibre filters within washing machines would also empower the consumer to take appropriate action on microfibres within their home.
The Government should work with industry to introduce a standard filter that could be fitted either inside or on the outside of a machine, with a standard or instruction on how best to dispose of the microfibres from the machines.
Mr Costa said: “I am very proud of this report, the proposed recommendations aim to reduce microplastic pollution with a focus on microfibre plastic. Microplastic pollution is a growing problem., the Government should consider implementing changes to significantly reduce and help mitigate the harmful effects humans have in disposing microplastics in our environment.”
Mr Costa added: “I am delighted that the Group’s report has been published today. I would strongly encourage the Government to consider the report recommendations such as appointing a Minister of Plastic Pollution (MOPP). The Minister would work across Government to set overarching policies with the aim to reduce all forms of plastic pollution as well as setting annual targets.”
Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society said “Microfibres have been found to account for a massive 70-100% of microplastics in parts of our ocean. That’s why, for the past year, we’ve been campaigning for all new washing machines to be required, by law, to be factory-fitted with microfibre filters and thousands have signed our petition in support.
“We’re pleased to see strong cross-party support for this legislation in the APPG’s report on microfibres, with factory-fitted filters a key recommendation. We look forward to seeing this recommendation turned into action in parliament, with filters fitted by 2025.”
Ann Jones, Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes said “This report is a clarion cry for action to turn the tide on the plastic pollution that is blighting our marine environments. Our own research found at least 9.4 trillion microplastic fibres could be released every week in the UK through the washing process.
“With every day that passes by, our rivers and seas are becoming more choked with plastic waste. The scale of the problem is huge, but the solutions are increasingly close at hand. By fitting filters to washing machines, making textile producers responsible for the waste their products create and appointing a Minister to bring Departments together we can make a huge difference.”