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Microplastics, Macrosolutions

Latest News 24 Nov 2022

Microplastics have become a topic of considerable concern across many industries and sectors. With efforts scaling up at the international level to tackle the problem, the implementation of different regulations across Europe risks hampering the free movement of goods and jeopardising the Single Market. All of which calls for the adoption of a lifecycle-based approach to identify the most cost-effective solution to a global issue.

Concern about the potential impact of microplastics has gathered momentum during the past few years. The number of scientific investigations has increased, along with public interest and pressure on stakeholders. “Understanding the magnitude of the issue is key to ensure an effective solution,” explained Giulia Zilla, APPLiA’s Energy & Environment Policy Manager when interviewed by Radio24 on the role and contribution of the home appliance industry to this global problem. Whilst lengthy discussions are taking place on trying to identify solutions, it is essential to acknowledge the complexity of the issue. In this sense, the deployment of washing machine filters into European homes has been widely identified as a possible mitigation strategy to microfiber emissions. “While filters can contribute to halting the journey of microplastics before they reach the environment, a more comprehensive and long-term solution, reconsidering the very use of plastics, is needed,” commented Zilla. Mandating the equipping of all household washing machines with a filter does not seem to represent a conclusive solution to tackle the microplastics issue, as fibres will always find their way into the environment, if present in textile products themselves.

Before setting any legislative requirements on washing machines, a number of technical considerations must be addressed. Among others, the filter can cause clogging of the machine but what is more, the burden of maintenance to keep the machine running would fall on consumers, from cleaning to replacement and disposal, in order to prevent the rinsing off of fibres in the sink. Even in the case of integrated filters, it would be very problematic to deal with the maintenance of the filter itself while ensuring the best performance of the machine. 

As a key actor in the discussion, APPLiA is the coordinator of the Consortium on Microplastics Release during Household Washing Processes, bringing together over 20 signatory parties ranging from washing machines, detergent and filter manufacturers, to test institutes and facilities towards a standardised testing methodology assessing microplastics release during household washing cycle. These preliminary but rather concrete steps make clear the industry’s commitment to take part in the discussion and ultimately tackle microplastic pollution in Europe. 

Giulia Zilla, APPLiA’s Energy & Environment Policy Manager, was invited to present the contribution of the home appliance sector in tackling the global microplastics challenge in an insightful discussion on Radio24’s Si può fare led by Laura Bettini. 

Do you speak Italian? The recording is available at this link.

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