Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth is calling on the UK apparel industry to do more to tackle plastic pollution as a survey published today (14 September) shows most consumers aren’t aware that much of their clothing is plastic-based.

The YouGov survey, published by Friends of the Earth, estimates that clothes washing in the UK generates around 4,000 tonnes of plastic microfibre pollution every year – of which 1,600 tonnes could be ending up in rivers and estuaries.

It also found only 45% 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. When washed, the fabrics shed millions of tiny microfibres – with estimates suggesting up to 17m microfibres could be released by an average full washing machine wash. 

The figures have been released to coincide with London Fashion Week, which kicks off today. Friends of the Earth is urging the public to embrace slow fashion by choosing fewer, more durable clothing items made from sustainable material.

“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,” says Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner Emma Priestland. “These fibres are so small 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,” she continues. “Eco-conscious shoppers can play their part by embracing slow fashion and choosing better quality, less-polluting clothes or buying vintage items.”

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Priestland says that in order to end the plastic pollution crisis, government action is needed to phase out all but the most essential plastics.