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Published on September 20th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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APPG report on Microplastics: Washing machine manufacturers have role to play

Washing machine manufacturers will be expected to play a leading role in reducing microplastics that enter the world’s oceans via the water discharged by appliances into wastewater systems.   

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Microplastics will publish its first report tomorrow (Tuesday 21st September), which contains six key recommendations for the Government on Microplastic Pollution.

The report is supported by a group of cross-party MPs and over twenty organisations including leading academics, global washing machine manufacturers and environmental groups.

The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA), which has worked closely with the APPG on Microplastics, welcomed the report, stating that appliance manufacturers are committed to mitigating the impact of microfibres that are released from textiles during laundering and emphasising that this is a global problem “requiring harmonised solutions” – more comment from AMDEA later.

And this is the issue

According to the Marine Conservation Society, globally, more than 840 million domestic washing machines are used and during every wash microfibres are lost from our clothes. In the UK alone, at least 9.4 trillion fibres are released each week from washing, with many of these ending up in the ocean and on our beaches.

Early this year the Society said UK Governments should introduce legislation that requires washing machine manufacturers to fit microfibre filters in all new domestic and commercial machines by 2023, and all commercial machines retrofitted with microfibre filters by 2024.

“The advent of technological solutions, in particular the fitting of filters within washing machines, can stop the microfibres getting in the wastewater and ultimately into the ocean,” the Society said.  

Identifying sustainable solutions

Francis Thomas, Technical Officer for AMDEA, said: “Appliance manufacturers are dedicating their engineering skills and vast experience of user behaviour to identify a range of effective and sustainable solutions that are practical to use and affordable for householders. 

“This also requires establishing international performance standards for washing machines, based on sound science and technical rigour.”

Prerequisites to be met will include:

  • Solutions that can be replicated internationally, reflecting the global nature of domestic appliance R&D and manufacturing.
  • Performance measurements that permit accurate surveillance testing.
  • Technologies that maintain the current high standards of energy and water efficiency of washing machines and permit further progress on these savings.
  • Solutions that reduce the release of microfibres in washing machine effluent, while remaining easy to use and affordable.

Ahead of the curve

At IFA 2019, Beko parent Arçelik unveiled “new technology set to transform the way washing machines currently filter microfibres” and introduced the “world’s first” washing machine with a built-in synthetic microfibre filtration system, which blocks 90% of microfibres from entering the water sources via a filtration box in the detergent drawer that filters the water before discharge.

CEO Hakan Bulgurlu said: “This technology is one of the most important innovations to come out of Arçelik and it has the potential to create far-reaching and significant change in our world. We have made significant investments in R&D and we are committed to working together with NGOs, universities and other stakeholders to expand this project.”

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