Textile facts

29.05.2020

The "WASHING FORUM", a digital platform for sustainability in the fields of washing, rinsing and cleaning in private households in Germany, has published a new fact paper on the topic of microplastics. Part 1 of the fact paper "Microplastics in the washing and care of textiles and in the cleaning of surfaces in the home" deals with quantities of primary microplastic from laundry products, fabric conditioners and detergents, and Part 2 covers microplastic discharges from textiles.

The "WASHING FORUM" dialogue platform is an initiative formed by experts from authorities, federal ministries, research institutes, a trade union, producers of detergents and cleaning agents, manufacturers of household appliances, environmental organisations, universities and consumer associations. It aims to help industry produce detergents and other washing and cleaning agents (called WPR products in German) as sustainably as possible and help consumers use them as sustainably as possible in the private household. For this purpose, the forum offers topic-related fact papers.

The first part of the latest fact paper entitled "Microplastics in the washing and care of textiles and in the cleaning of surfaces in the home" presents a comprehensive overview of the known facts on the discharge of microplastics from WPR products via the wastewater into the environment. WPR products contain a variety of constituents with specific functions and properties. Microplastics in the form of abrasives, opacifiers and capsule materials for perfume oils are, according to the paper, used only in a comparatively small quantity: In 2018 it says there were approx. 300 t in WPR products for the private household, which is equivalent to approx. 0.05 percent of the total volume of the most important constituents. Of this – according to the fact paper – a total of max. 90 t of microplastic could get into the environment in a year.

In addition to these primary microplastic particles, secondary microplastic particles are also discharged. These are formed through abrasion or fragmentation of larger plastic parts. The second part of the paper deals with the facts behind such discharges from textiles. Thus, microplastic particles get into the effluent with the washing and cleaning water as a result of using and washing clothing fabrics and home textiles. The paper describes the factors influencing the release of fibres, the influences during use, and then estimates how much man-made fibre from synthetic polymers gets into the environment. The authors also show that estimates are extremely problematical when they are based on individual textile samples. Study results from Germany on the contamination of treated water and sewage sludge apparently show a load of less than 50 t per year of such particles.

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