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.
Due to the restrictions placed on meetings and community events, the NFWI has produced a ‘work from home’ fixing fast fashion toolkit which contains End Plastic Soup projects members can do from home. The NFWI will be releasing the full community event toolkit when the public health measures will allow public meetings.
Our work is continuing on the Environment Bill, but the Bill has been pushed back to September 2020 at the earliest. The NFWI is continuing to work with partners including Friends of the Earth to see action to reduce and eliminate non-essential plastic use by 2025, and to the significantly reduce all types of plastic and plastic waste by 2042.
Our main aim is to change the Bill so that the government must set targets to cut plastic waste. We also want to see action in the Bill to make sure that targets are robust, effective and evidence-based in order to avoid causing other social and environmental harms.
We have also been using this opportunity to do more digital campaigning work and undertook work on #PlasticFreeJuly.
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
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.
The report revealed 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 fashion.
WI members attended a member conference in October 2018, where they discussed the report, heard from expert speakers and considered further action that could be taken.
Scroll down to read the report in full.
The WI is working with a range of environmental organisations including Friends of the Earth to push for numerical targets on the face of the Environment Bill which will help eliminate single-use and non-essential plastics by 2042.
The Environment Bill has been put on pause in the House of Commons until at least September 2020. The NFWI will continue to work with Friends of the Earth and other environmental organisations to drum up support for our suggested amendments during the Bill’s parliamentary hiatus.
If you would like to stay informed about our work on the Environment Bill, do subscribe to the Public Affairs Digest, and keep an eye on social media for up-to-date blog posts and social media statements. We will also keep WI members and Climate Ambassadors informed of any available opportunities to get involved in this campaign.
Fast Fashion Event
The rise of ‘fast fashion’ has seen mass-produced clothing designed for instant gratification but that carries with it hidden environmental and social impacts. The pressure to produce imitations of the latest trends quickly and at low prices means that garments are produced ever more quickly, and at a lower cost.
The NFWI is concerned that the sheer volume of cheap, throwaway clothing being produced and purchased could contribute to the release of microplastic fibres. The WI worked with textiles charity TRAID to raise awareness of the environmental impact of clothing by holding an event focused on fast fashion.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Microplastics
A next step in our End Plastic Soup campaign will be the formation of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Microplastics. You can find out more about this here.
How you can get involved
- Find out more about the issue of microplastic fibres and fast fashion in our action pack
- Read our research report "In a Spin"
- Download our "Wash and Wear Well" checklist to find out about reducing the impact of your own washing practices
- Stay up to date on our End Plastic Soup campaign work by subscribing to the PA Digest below, or consider becoming a WI Climate Ambassador