Joint project "TextileMission" is concluded

Joint project "TextileMission" is concluded

14.12.2021

After a good three and a half years of research, the joint project "TextileMission", which was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), has been concluded and the results have been published in a detailed final report. The report says that, in Germany, around ten tonnes of microplastic are released every year through the wearing and washing of sportswear such as fleece jackets and sports shirts and vests. 93 to 97 percent of the particles smaller than 5 millimetres and larger than 5 micrometres are retained in the treatment plants which means that between 100 kilogramme and 1.3 tonnes are released into the environment every year.

 

The participants in the joint project, who were from the fields of textile research, water chemistry, sports goods, household appliances, detergents and environmental protection, had set themselves the target of establishing the causes of plastic emissions and documenting their discharge pathways, and of researching potential solutions to prevent them. The team set out to investigate not only the discharge of particles during the washing of synthetic fabrics, but also the release of such particles during their production, and finally when wearing them. In the extensive washing and drying tests, it was found in that, in many cases, the garments still contained fibres that could only stem from production, transport and trade, because by far the most microplastic particles are released during the first three washes of a new garment. This leads to the first potential solution for avoiding discharges, namely that the garments should be subjected to controlled cleaning and disposal of the microfibres before the product reaches the retailer. Consumers can also make a contribution to avoiding the problem by dispensing with the purchase of "fast fashion", and, when washing, always fully loading the washing machine, because more fibrous microplastic is released when the machine is only partly loaded. Should microplastic nevertheless get into the wastewater or sewage, says the report, up to 97 percent of it will be retained in the treatment plants. According to figures from the Institute for Water Chemistry at the Technical University of Dresden, 100 percent would even be technically feasible, but would involve a disproportionately high cost. For this reason, the efforts should be directed at avoiding emissions in the first place. The report thus recommends the following approaches:

 

  • In production, the release of microplastics due to subjecting the yarns to mechanical stresses during the knitting process can be avoided by altering some of the machine parameters.
  • Conventional cutting processes should be replaced by alternative procedures (e.g. laser cutters), which were tested in the "TextileMission" project.
  • Alternative fibre materials such as recycled polyester or cellulose fibres can be a more sustainable option as regards raw material production, manufacture and disposal if certain social and ecological sustainability factors are taken into account, such as the cultivation region, cultivation methods etc.

 

The three and a half years of research has, according to the report, revealed various promising approaches to reduce textile microplastic emissions, ranging from innovative processes in production to the use of alternative materials. At the same time, it also illustrates the need for further research and development. It says that the only way to achieve success is to apply an interdisciplinary approach that takes into account all the steps in the production chain and life cycle of textiles.

 

More information: Final report (German language)

 

Sources:

  • BSI Bundesverband Deutsche Sportartikel-Industrie (7/22/2021)
  • Photo: © Renate Kalloch / Pixelio

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