Subject Predicate Object
Government response
government response summary
The Government takes environmental protection very seriously. Washing machines must comply with legal safety requirements to protect people, animals and property from safety risks.
government response details
The Government currently has no plans to require manufacturers to install microplastic filters on new washing machines. It is working with industry to encourage improved environmental outcomes and reduce water pollution. We will continue to assess new and emerging evidence and consider the need for legislation in the future if industry approaches are not successful. The UK is committed to lead efforts to protect the environment from all stressors and recognises that tackling water pollution needs a sustainable, international and transboundary approach. Water infrastructure is recognised as an important pathway of contaminants, including microplastics, to the wider environment. The Government appreciates that there are knowledge and evidence gaps around the risks of microplastics on ecosystems and humans. There is therefore a need to steer the scientific community to focus research on closing the key knowledge gaps to understand the real effects these materials are exerting on ecosystems and humans. Defra is supporting a research project at the University of Plymouth which explores how microplastics enter waterways and oceans and the impact they may have on marine life. Fibres released into wastewater during a washing cycle is a specific consideration of the project. Preventing the release of these materials at source, whether at the point of machine-washing textiles and reducing emissions of microplastics to the wastewater system or at the point of wastewater treatment, requires more research. One line of research will need to address the technical question of what would be the appropriate mesh size for the washing machine filter to provide the most effective removal of textile fibres, and how the trapped fibres would be sustainably disposed of to eliminate the possibility of them entering the environment via other pathways. Defra is also working with the water industry to reduce the amount of litter entering the environment from sewage and wastewater systems. Over £9 billion has been invested in England and Wales between 1990 and 2010 to improve sewage treatment works and collecting systems to limit polluting events, and some £2 billion is planned between now and 2020. The Drinking Water Inspectorate has commissioned research on the removal of microplastics by drinking water treatment processes. Defra is working with the Environment Agency and the UK water industry to establish methods to detect, characterise and quantify microplastics entering wastewater treatment works to evaluate the efficiency of treatment processes in their removal from domestic wastewaters. As these pieces of research conclude, the evidence will be rigorously assessed to inform policy decision making on how to tackle microplastics, including by preventing them from entering the wider environment. The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 require that any washing machine placed on the market must be designed and manufactured in accordance with safety objectives before it can be sold in the UK. This includes protection against hazards to people, domestic animals or property arising from the electrical equipment such as the danger of physical injury or other harm which might be caused by direct or indirect contact, dangers from temperature, arcs or radiation or non-electrical dangers. There is no specific legal requirement for manufacturers to add filters to screen out microplastics. However, there is nothing to prevent businesses from choosing to do so on a voluntary basis. The majority of current product regulation is underpinned by European and international standards, which set a clear and measurable benchmark for consumer products. These standards are voluntary and can cover issues related to design which are not required for safety purposes, such as voluntary adoption of a filter. The international standards system aims to develop one standard on any given industry issue, to be adopted in countries worldwide. Common standards are voluntary but greatly reduce the cost and complexity for industry and consumers, enable business to operate easily across borders and simplify market access. BEIS supports the UK’s active participation in international standards and is working with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to encourage greater diversity in committee representation, ensuring that all voices are adequately heard and that standards reflect the outcomes we collectively want to achieve, including on environmental matters. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (
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