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Written Question

Question Link

17 May 2021

Questioner: Neale Hanvey (Alba - Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will bring forward legislative proposals similar to those recently brought forward by the French Government to require that all new washing machines are fitted with microfilters to help prevent synthetic microfibres from entering rivers and oceans and consequently entering the food chain.

Answered by Rebecca Pow

The Government currently has no plans to require manufacturers to install microplastic filters on new washing machines. We are working with industry to encourage improved environmental outcomes and reduce water pollution on a voluntary basis. We will continue to assess new and emerging evidence and consider the need for legislation in the future if the current approach is not successful.

Water infrastructure is recognised as an important pathway for contaminants, including microplastics, to the wider environment. The Government is working with the industry and scientific community to focus on research which addresses the evidence gaps in knowledge of the issues and the real world impacts these materials are exerting on our ecosystems and people.

Defra has published the outcome of research - Investigating the sources and pathways of synthetic fibre and vehicle tyre wear contamination into the marine environment . The report highlights the prevalence of tyre-wear particles and fibres from clothing in air/water and storm drain pathways to the marine environment. A key conclusion from this research was that there are many textile fibres in the air close to roads, particularly those with pedestrians, which would settle into waterways. Comparatively, there were fewer fibres entering the marine environment from waste-water treatment plants. Before considering options to prevent microfibres entering the water environment, such as washing machine filters, there needs to be more certainty about the impacts of policy measures designed to reduce microplastic fibres entering freshwater and marine environments.