Eco body urges action on plastic in clothing

Clothing firms are being urged to take action after a new report revealed that just 45% of consumers know that new clothing can often be made of or contain plastic, which can end up in rivers after being shed during washing.


Friends of the Earth, an environmental campaign group, said fashion brands and manufacturers should recognise there is a significant problem, and commit to take steps to reduce it, such as telling consumers which materials are the most polluting.

It comes after a 2018 study for the European Commission revealed that clothes washing in the UK is estimated to generate around 4,000 tonnes of plastic microfibre pollution every year. A portion of these tiny plastic fibres are then released into waterways, becoming a threat to marine life. It has been estimated that 1,600 tonnes of plastic microfibre could end up in rivers and estuaries annually.

“The fashion industry is a major contributor to plastic pollution, shedding tonnes of tiny plastic microfibres into our oceans via our washing machines every year. These fibres are so small that they pass through water treatment facilities and end up in the food chain when they are swallowed by small creatures in our seas. The industry must help stop this tsunami of plastic pollution,” said Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner Emma Priestland.

The group is asking clothing companies to measure plastic shedding from their clothes and phase out the most polluting materials. They should also ensure that all water drainage pipes used for washing or dying clothing in factories are fitted with microfiber filters, it said.

Meanwhile, consumers should do their part by embracing slow fashion, shopping in second-hand stores, and opting for better quality, less-polluting items, it said.

Friends of the Earth’s call comes on the first day of London Fashion Week, the bi-annual fashion showcasing bringing together some of the industry’s hottest names in a five-day celebration of the British fashion scene.

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