- Using the Microplastic Policies for Government report as a basis, the APPG on Microplastics and the WI have had meetings with DEFRA Ministers and civil servants to discuss the findings of the report further, and to explore the feasibility of the Government putting the report’s recommendations into law.
- The WI was invited to present the work of WI members and the APPG on Microplastics at the UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, and virtually addressed delegates at the 13th International Forum of NGOs in partnership with UNESCO which took place in Ottawa, Canada.
End Plastic Soup
Our campaign explores the scale of the microplastic fibre pollution and calls on the government and industry to develop solutions to the problem.
Microplastic fibres are small (5mm or smaller) plastic fragments shed from synthetic clothes when washed. As the fragments are too small to be caught by the machine’s filters, they then flow into the sewage system and eventually into the ocean, where those fibres are often swallowed or absorbed by plants and fish, filling up their stomachs and in some cases causing them to die.
The scale of the problem is large, as millions of people wash their clothes every week. These fibres can also end up in the food we eat – the long-term effects of which are not yet clear.
Launched in 2017, our End Plastic Soup campaign explores the scale of the microplastic fibre pollution and calls on the government and industry to develop solutions to the problem. The issue is complex and involves a wide range of stakeholders, from the clothing and wastewater treatment industries to washing machine manufacturers.
To find out more about the issue watch the animation below:
What we have achieved so far
- Throughout 2021, the APPG on Microplastics held a series of policy roundtable discussions with over twenty different stakeholders to discuss policy solutions to microplastic fibre pollution released from clothing during the laundry process.
- In September 2021, the APPG on Microplastics published our six recommendations in our first report, ‘Microplastic Policies for Government.’ Key recommendations in the report include the fitting of microfibre filters in all new domestic and commercial washing machines from 2025; the appointment of a designated Minister of Plastic Pollution; and Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for textile recycling.
- The report was launched in Parliament and received national press coverage in the Guardian, the Times, Times Radio, Peston, and The House Magazine. It also received coverage in relevant industry press.
- In November 2021, the WI co-organised a parliamentary drop-in event in support of Alberto Costa MP’s 10 Minute Rule Bill. The Bill calls for all new domestic and commercial washing machines for sale in the UK from 2025 to include a microplastic fibre capture filter.
- In September 2020, the WI became the Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Microplastics. The group is chaired by Alberto Costa MP and works cross-party with interested stakeholders to discuss potential policy solutions to the problem of microplastics and microfibres.
- You can find out more about the APPG on Microplastics here.
- Working alongside Friends of the Earth, Surfers Against Sewage, Keep Britain Tidy and City to Sea, the WI began a two-year long campaign to call for numerical targets on the face of the Environment Bill in order to help eliminate single-use and non-essential plastics by 2042.
- Alongside Friends of the Earth, the WI got #DrasticOnPlastic and organised an MP drop-in session in support of Alistair Carmichael MP’s ‘Plastic Pollution Bill’ in Parliament.
- WI members attended a ‘Fixing Fast Fashion’ day, where they heard presentations by the NFWI Public Affairs team and the second-hand clothing charity, TRAID, on the impacts of microplastic fibres and fast fashion on our environment. WI members also took part in a repair café, where they learnt how to give their well-loved garments a second lease of life.
You can find a Fixing Fast Fashion repair toolkit here.
- Working with Dr Natalie Welden from the University of Glasgow, the WI undertook a member survey and produced a research report looking at the impact of washing clothes in the home.
- Our ‘In a Spin’ report found that at least 9.4 trillion microplastic fibres are released from the washing process each week in the UK. The report received national media coverage and was referenced by the Environmental Audit Committee in Parliament in its inquiry into the environmental impact of fast fashion.
- WI members attended a member conference in October 2018, where they discussed the In a Spin report, heard from expert speakers and considered further action that could be taken on microplastic fibres.
- The End Plastic Soup resolution was passed with a 98.9% majority at the 2017 NFWI Annual Meeting.
- The NFWI Public Affairs team published the End Plastic Soup action pack which included the best-practice ‘Wash and Wear Well’ checklist outlining some simple ways WI members could reduce the release of microplastic fibres from washing loads.
How you can get involved
- Find out more about the issue of microplastic fibres and fast fashion in our action pack
- Find out more about the WI’s work as Secretariat of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Microplastics
- Download our "Wash and Wear Well" checklist to find out about reducing the impact of your own washing practices
If you are a WI Member or Supporter Plus, we have more ways to get involved on My WI. Find out more here.
If you are not already a WI member, the members decide the WI campaigns through a democratic vote. We would love to welcome a new WI member, please click here for further details.