UK urged to mandate microplastic filters in new washing machines

Campaign group A Plastic Planet and microfibre filtration company Matter are calling for the UK government to mandate the use of filters in new washing machines.

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The call comes after legislation was vetoed in the US state of California by Governor Gavin Newsom that mandated microplastic filters in all new washing machines by 2029.

Governor Newsom said: “I am concerned that this bill will increase costs to consumers in advance of further research being completed and establishing the public policy rationale and details for new residential requirements”.

He suggested that “alternative approaches” should be considered to “incentivise, rather than a mandate on the use of filters.”

The Microplastic Filters (Washing Machines) Bill is currently in its second reading within the UK’s House of Commons having been introduced by Alberto Costa MP in 2022.

If passed, the Bill would require washing machine manufacturers to fit microplastic-catching filters in all new domestic and commercial washing machines in the UK.

France was the first country to introduce legislation on the issue in 2020, requiring every new washing machine have a filter to catch plastic microfibres by January 2025.

Matter, a Bristol, UK-based company that produces technological solutions for capturing, harvesting, and recycling microplastics, has been working with French manufacturers ahead of 2025. The company is also partnering with textile brands and manufacturers to help them better understand and prevent pollution from microfibre fragmentation in the textile manufacturing process.

Rob Hemsley, CFO of Matter, said: "France has already shown that lawmakers can take bold action when we work together, we now need California and the rest of the world to follow suit."

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet & Plastic Health Council, believes the human health impacts of plastic requires comprehensive legislation going beyond just the mandate of microplastic filters.

“The mandatory capture of plastic fibres should be a first step, filter technology being essential in cleaning up the toxic mess we have created, but if we truly want to protect our planet and our health, we must transition to a fully circular system that embraces the use of natural plastic-free materials and reuse; a system where plastic particles are the exception and not the norm.”