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Clothing firms urged to act on plastic pollution

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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London - On the opening day of London Fashion Week, Friends of the Earth are calling on the fashion industry to do more to tackle plastic pollution, as new figures highlight that the sector is a “significant contribution” to the problem.

The environmental campaign group states clothes washing in the UK is estimated to generate around 4,000 tonnes of plastic microfibre pollution every year, of which 1,600 tonnes could be ending up in our rivers and estuaries.

The call for the fashion industry to act on plastic pollution coincides with a new survey, showing that most people aren't aware that much of our clothing is plastic-based. The Friends of the Earth-commissioned YouGov poll found that only 45 percent of the public know that new clothing can often be made from, or contain, plastic.

As much as two-thirds of UK clothing could be made from synthetic plastic material, such as polyester, acrylic or polyamide, according to the environmental group.

Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner Emma Priestland said in a statement: “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.”

Friends of the Earth call on fashion industry to do more to tackle plastic pollution

The charity is urging the public to embrace slow fashion by choosing fewer, more durable clothing items made from sustainable material, which can be kept longer, as well as urging the clothing industry to take steps to reduce its contribution to the plastic pollution entering our oceans.

Priestland added: “Eco-conscious shoppers can play their part by embracing slow fashion and choosing better quality, less-polluting clothes or buying vintage items. Ultimately, to end the plastic pollution crisis, we need government action to phase-out all but the most essential plastics.”

Key tips include: buying fewer fleeces as polyester fleece is thought to be one of the biggest emitters of microfibres due to its construction, instead the charity is suggesting consumers buy woollen fleeces as an alternative.

While for maintaining clothing for longer it suggests washing clothes at lower temperatures, typically under 30°C, as a lower temperature wash is less aggressive, so therefore less likely to stimulate fibre release and also saves energy. In addition, it adds to reduce spin speeds, use environmentally friendly liquid detergent, use a special ‘Guppy’ friend bag to collect fibres to help reduce fibre release from clothes, and air dry rather than tumble dry.

Image: courtesy of Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth
London Fashion Week