The UK government is being called upon to surpass California by mandating microplastic filters on washing machines.

More than 171tn pieces of microplastic are reportedly floating in our waters.

Textiles create 35% of the world’s primary microplastic pollution, with some 60% of textiles now made from plastic fibres. Every time clothes are washed, up to 700,000 plastic fibres are released from washing machines and into waterways.

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

However, across the Atlantic, the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, vetoed legislation on the issue in early October.

The text passed both the lower and upper houses of the California State Legislature and was expected to be signed into law by Governor Newsom by campaigners and businesses alike.

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Governor Newsom stated: “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 went on to suggest “alternative approaches” should be considered to “incentivise, rather than a mandate on the use of filters.”

However, campaigners and business leaders insist the mandate would be a cost-effective method of protecting the environment, with France already set to implement similar legislation and the EU now progressing with regulation in this space.

The UK’s position on microplastic filters

In the UK, there are now calls from campaigners A Plastic Planet and microfibre filtration company Matter for Westminster to mandate the use of filters.

The Microplastic Filters (Washing Machines) Bill is currently in its second reading within the 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.

A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland commented: “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.

“As Westminster continues to regress on environmental protections, others such as France are pulling way ahead in implementing progressive legislation that is desperately needed.”