Posts

, , ,

Warning label plastic clothing desperately needed

Amsterdam, March 19, 2018 – Microfibers that are released during the machine-washing of synthetic clothing are one of the most important and difficult-to-combat sources of the plastic soup. Millions of fibers are released per wash, fibers so small they are impossible to remove from wastewater. A bill has recently been submitted in California which proposes to provide all synthetic clothing with a warning label. Clothing that is at least 50% synthetic must be labeled with the text “This garment sheds plastic microfibers when washed”. If the bill is passed, it will take effect on January 1st, 2020.

In Europe, an industrial consortium of textile companies is considering how to prevent the spread of microfibers derived from synthetic clothing. Before the end of 2018, the partnership, according to a statement issued in January, will present possible solutions to the European Commission. This plan, however, is so vague that it raises the question whether the consortium is, in fact, strategically delaying measures for as long as possible.

The bill in California can be understood as a litmus test. If the European partnership has been created to work seriously, then there should be nothing in the way of publicly declaring that such a label should also be obligatory in Europe. If, on the other hand, the consortium has been set up to postpone all effective measures for as long as possible (under the guise that excessive research must be conducted first, for example), the industry will not commit to such a label. 

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “The European Commission should not wait for the proposals that the European textile Industry will present at the end of 2018. Instead, it should make a warning label obligatory, just like in California. In this way, consumers are at least informed — that is an important first step in the fight against this environmental disaster.”

, ,

European textile industry’s microfiber initiative puts off taking action

Amsterdam, 2 February 2018 – Plastic microfibers are released during the machine washing of synthetic clothing. Microfibers in the environment are difficult to tackle and form a huge problem. In its Plastic Strategy the European Commission expresses its support for a new initiative by a European industrial consortium, which aims to prevent plastic microfibers entering water. On 16 January, the very day that the EC presented its Plastic Strategy, the consortium released this declaration.

The aim of the industry’s initiative is to find feasible solutions and develop test methods. To achieve this, the consortium intends to spend the first half of 2018 analyzing the problem. In addition to this it wants to put a draft proposal to the European Commission by the end of 2018 stating which knowledge needs to be developed in order to work on possible solutions. The declaration is incredibly vague.

The five companies (AISE, CIRFS, European Outdoor Group, Euratex, Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry) could, however, save themselves months of effort, since the European Commission already had research carried out into synthetic microfibers long ago. The main conclusion of the Mermaids Life+ project is that 600,000 and 17,700,000 microfibers are released during every five-kilo wash (an average of six million per wash). This and other results were published at the end of 2017 in the scientific journal Environmental Pollution. The Mermaids project also developed an analysis method based on scanning a filter (with a mesh size of 5 µm) using an electron microscope. This makes it possible to count the number of fibers released per wash relatively accurately.

So why has the consortium failed to even mention research carried out by the European Mermaids project, while at the same time saying it wants to analyze the problem and focus on developing harmonized test methods? After all the problem has long been analyzed, not just by Mermaids, but also by other research groups, such as the one led by professor Richard Thompson of the University of Plymouth. The results of which are largely consistent. There is currently enough known on which synthetic materials release more or fewer fibers, which temperatures reduce fiber release and whether, for example, it matters which detergent is used.

So what is actually going on? Measures to prevent fiber loss will be radical and that is a huge threat to the whole textile chain. The joint action taken by the five industrial organizations is a tried and tested strategy, which could be described as ‘obstructive cooperation’. It entails recognizing that there is a problem and then taking as much time as possible to analyze and research it. The essential thing is to avoid or influence government regulation by being the first to announce action.

The European Commission should have set conditions for measures aimed at reducing the loss of fibers and it should have done so on the basis of the European Mermaids life+ project.