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More recycled PET in clothing: no guarantee for less fiber loss

Amsterdam, 27 February 2019 – Plastic microfibers are found everywhere: in water, on land and in the air. Machine washing of synthetic clothing is the biggest cause. At least hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of tiny fibers are released with every cycle.

In the report Fixing fashion, which was released this week, the British Parliament has determined that the textile and fast fashion industry are the most polluting sectors. The loss of microfibers is only one of many environmental problems the industry causes. It also includes water pollution, high CO2 emission, use of toxic chemicals, as well as numerous social maltreatments. The report, drawn up based on hearings by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, says it like it is and wants the industry to strongly reduce their environmental strain. The commission also wants the British government to take effective measures.

59 Textile companies in the United Kingdom have promised to use at least 25% rPET (recycled PET) in their garments by 2020. This has various (environmental) benefits: less new plastic has to be used, less plastic ends up in landfills, it creates a market for used plastic bottles and, not in the least, saves CO2. Due to these benefits, it’s understandable that even the parliamentary commission follows this course and suggests that much more fashion in the United Kingdom should be made from recycled plastic. This is to be stimulated by levying tax on all synthetic clothing that doesn’t consist of at least 50% recycled PET.

However, clothing made from recycled plastic unfortunately also leads to fiber loss. One environmental problem is therefore maintained in order to solve other (environmental) problems. The commission does add that clothing with recycled PET should be specially designed to minimize shedding, but doesn’t say whether this is technically achievable.  And “garments designed to minimize shedding” is as vague as it can be.

Without a norm for fiber loss there’s even a risk that the propagated way (more recyclables in clothing) will have counterproductive results for the plastic soup, because not less, but more plastic fibers enter the environment on balance.

Also read – Millions of microfibers in wastewater with every wash

Ocean Clean Wash: Closing the loop on microfiber pollution

Ocean Clean Wash is redirecting its campaign in order to close the loop of microfiber pollution from synthetic clothes: we are tackling each step of the value chain and looking for solutions. We expect a reduction of 80% of synthetic microfiber release in the coming years.

In order to do this, we have gathered stakeholders from each stage of the product lifecycle that has shown interest in working on and promoting solutions. Together, they form the Coalition of the Willing.

We believe that we need to find solutions in the yarn manufacturing stage, fabric manufacturing stage, and even at the end of the product’s lifecycle. It is not an option to only focus on one step of the chain: the responsibility of this issue devolves upon all the stakeholders involved in lifecycle of clothing. By combining solutions in the entire cycle, microfiber pollution will gradually reduce and will eventually be totally prevented.

There are currently solutions that are looking extremely promising and will significantly reduce the amount of microfibers released. A washing machine filter is being developed by the start-up Planet Care in Slovenia and recent tests show that it can stop up to 80% of the fibers released. At the same time, the research institute Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) in Italy is working on a pectin coating that can be added to the yarn and could potentially prevent 80% of microfiber release.

As part of the campaign from the past few months, we have been testing four fashion brands to rank them in terms of microfiber release. The research institute CNR in Italy tested two sports brands and two fast fashion brands following constant variables. The results of these tests will be disclosed mid-October.

If, as a stakeholder, you are interested in being part of the Coalition of the Willing to find solutions and finally solve what probably is the biggest source of microplastic pollution in our ocean, please contact laura@plasticsoupfoundation.org. 

PSF & Planet Care

Plastic Soup Foundation enters into collaboration with successful developer of washing machine filters

PSF & Planet CareThe Plastic Soup Foundation (PSF) has joined forces with the innovative Slovenian company, PlanetCare, in the battle against plastic fibres in clothing and textiles. These are a major and hazardous form of plastic leaching into the environment, and possibly pose serious health effects.
 
PSF has worked on drawing attention to this problem for years in its ‘Ocean Clean Wash’ campaign. PSF is bringing together a growing coalition of dozens of stakeholders from around the world to come up with solutions to tackle this problem. PSF is proud that PlanetCare from Slovenia is joining the coalition. PlanetCare is the developer of one of the best solutions to date: a thoroughly tested washing machine filter that catches at least 80% of the released plastic fibres before they disappear down the drain. Clever technology and useful applications enable PlanetCare to develop a consumer friendly product at low cost. Regulations may follow that require manufacturers to incorporate the filter in new washing machines as a matter of course. Apart from this, for washing machines now that do not have the filter, PlanetCare is developing several add-on applications. Solutions for industrial washing facilities are also at an advanced stage.

In a response, Mojca Zupan, founder & CEO, says “We are extremely thrilled and proud to join the coalition Plastic Soup Foundation has initiated. We believe that our filters enable citizens and companies to stop “shedding” microplastic fibres into the environment even in the absence of regulation or broad systemic solutions. Until now they had no such option. PSF has shown leadership and vision which we hope to change into reality for all.”

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation says that “We spent four years searching the world for a solution like this. PlanetCare is the very first company to have found a solution for this technically complex problem. Major washing machine manufacturers such as Miele and Electrolux have also been doing their best for years. Kudos to this small start-up!”

The Plastic Soup Foundation will continue to approach responsible manufacturers to collaborate on new developments.