Fast fashion plays a major role in plastic microfiber pollution. That is why the Plastic Soup Foundation cooperates with IPCB-CNR (Italian National Research Council) to develop a benchmark and label. This benchmark to measure microfiber release from synthetic clothes is the first benchmark that is completely independent of the fashion industry. This new standard enables brands, organizations, and consumers to see how much or how little microfibre certain clothes shed.
Each participating fashion brand is assessed against this benchmark and may then attach a red, orange, or green label to its clothing. The label, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, will enable consumers to make informed decisions about the clothes they buy based on their environmental impact.
Methodology to test microfiber release from textiles
This methodology quantifies and certifies microfiber release from the washing of textiles. It allows textile brands and manufacturers to test if their products release microfibers into the wastewater. It has been developed by researchers from the Institute for Polymers, Composites, and Biomaterials of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR-IPCB) and it has been patented together with the Plastic Soup Foundation in Italy. The patent will be filed for the European extension in May 2021.
How does it measure microfiber release?
The methodology uses two types of tests: one at a lab-scale by using a lab simulator, and another one at a real scale by using a washing machine.
- Simulation tests at a lab-scale that involves the use of a washing simulator.
- Real-scale tests with the use of a commercial washing machine.
The cross-comparison of the outputs of the two types of procedures allows us to differentiate levels of release. According to the different levels of microfiber release, the textile items will receive a label that will indicate the level of release. From best (green) to worst (red).
The WOMA Consortium
Microfibers are one of the main sources of primary microplastics in the oceans (35%), which shows the importance of stopping microfibers before they enter the environment. One way of doing it is by testing textiles for microfiber release, so they can be quantified and, with that information, textile brands and manufacturers can adapt or change their garments or manufacturing process to reduce their microfiber impact. The Ocean Clean Wash Label and the WOMA Consortium (Wear Off Microfibers Alliance) will provide businesses with solutions and guidance. The WOMA Consortium is a group of universities, institutes, NGOs, start-ups, or research centers that can use the methodology to test clothes. At the moment, this consortium is formed by Plastic Soup Foundation and IPCB-CNR.
Inditex and Adidas’ official response to our Youtube episode
We invited both Inditex and Adidas to give an official response to our Youtube episode “Inhale, Exhale”. Below their official responses:
At Inditex, we take our environmental responsibilities seriously. We have read in detail the Plastic Soup Foundation’s research report which studied the microfibre release of the Zara garment highlighted in the video. We note that the report itself identified that around 80% of the microfibres released from this garment are cellulosic in nature and are therefore biodegradable, non-plastic fibres.
We are committed to developing the most sustainable products that take into account their full life cycle. We are working proactively to further research and bridge the knowledge gap that exists on health and exposure of microplastics. We are also taking collective and individual actions to develop solutions for microplastic pollution.
During the past years we have been undertaking significant efforts in investigating in the root cause of microplastic shedding, developing a meaningful testing standard and conducting comprehensive testing. We have recently completed an extensive round of testing on almost 500 of our adidas materials; including different constructions, weights, compositions and finishing methods. This is currently the largest database of materials tested for microfibre shedding in the industry and we are using the data gathered to help inform material choices and selection in the future as we continue to strive towards lower shedding materials. We are planning to share this information with a wider stakeholder audience in 2021 and have already worked together with the industry in key external networks including The Microfibre Consortium and the BSI: Textile Mission.
While we appreciate Plastic Soup’s efforts in developing testing standards as described in the video, we have questions to the method, results, their interpretation and how it correlates with test methods from internal national organisations. We would welcome a continued engagement to understand their approach and are willing to share our findings.