Published 2018-02-27

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New research project to curb release of microplastics

A previous research report from Mistra Future Fashion showed that laundering textiles results in large-scale release of microplastics. This knowledge is now being used in a new research project, aimed at creating clothes that do not release microplastics.

In recent years, growing attention has been paid to the problem of rising volumes of microplastics in the oceans. One thing we know for sure: plastic degraded to microscopic size causes trouble for all marine life. Other matters, such as where all the microplastics come from, are less clear. However, a report (Microplastics shedding from polyester fabrics) from Mistra Future Fashion and Swerea IVF, published in 2017, showed that laundering of textiles is one of the biggest sources.

Swerea IVF has now been tasked with heading a new research project. The goal is that they will help the textile industry to create synthetic fabrics that do not release microplastics. The project will also investigate how washing machines are designed and whether they can be fitted with a filter to reduce the release of microplastics.

‘It’s very important to investigate the releases and the limit exposure. We also need more knowledge about fibre loss from various textiles, and that’s what we’ll get in the new project. This is information that, in turn, can help companies design clothing with minimal fibre release,’ says Christina Jönsson of Swerea IVF.

Twenty companies are currently involved in the project, and more are poised to join.

Conclusions that the new research project owes to the previous report by Mistra Future Fashion and Swerea include the latter’s findings on how microplastics are released from polyester fabrics. Moreover, three ways of minimising the spread of microplastics from textiles — handy, relatively simple measures that can be implemented fast — were identified. The report also pointed out major knowledge gaps. This is where the new programme is intended to start.

Text: Per Westergård