A new project will remove microplastics from textiles

21 November, 2017

The contamination of microplastics in our oceans comes from, among other things, regular clothes and fabrics made of acrylic, polyester and nylon. Swerea IVF manages a new project which will produce guidelines and look at technical solutions on a scientific basis to help the textile industry to reduce the emissions of microplastics from their products.

Microplastics have proven to be an environmental problem in our oceans. When the microplastics enter animals and plants, hazardous contaminants do too. The reason for the increasing amount of microplastics in the ocean is not fully known, but a number of reports including one that was published earlier this year by Swerea IVF and Mistra Future Fashion clearly show that washing of textiles is one of the greatest contributors. Microplastics contaminants are an environmental issue which is intensely discussed. In the autumn 2015, the UN agreed on 17 global goals for sustainable development. One of the goals concerns reducing the amount of microplastics in the ocean, and there is even talk of a zero emission goal.

Following an investigation, it was evident that the textile industry and its interested parties needed more knowledge and information on microplastics, and a research gap has been identified regarding the connection between fabric design and microplastics emission, as well as studies on how the design of washing machines can reduce the emissions.

Now, a research project will start, managed by Christina Jönsson at Swerea IVF; where the goal is to create knowledge and guidelines which will help the textile industry to design and create clothes made of synthetic fabrics which do not emit microplastics. The project will also investigate how washing machines are designed and whether or not they can be equipped with a filter that can reduce the emissions of microplastics.

–It is very important to investigate the emission and limit the exposure. Knowledge and data concerning loss of fibres due to use of different textiles need to be generated, and that is what we want to do in the project. That information can, in turn, help companies to design clothes that minimize the fibre emission, says Christina Jönsson.

– It is fantastic that so many companies and organisations want to join the project, there are 20 at the moment and we have more companies that are about to join the project, Christina concludes

Funding agency

The project is financed by FORMAS and will go on between the years 2018-2020.

Participating companies
Bergans, Boob Design, Electrolux, Ellos Group, Fjällräven, Filippa K, Gina Tricot, Haglöfs, H&M, Peak Performance, Sustema, TPC Textile och Y. Berger & Co.

Other organisations
Chalmers University of Technology, Johanneberg Science Park
University of Borås, STOP! Micro Waste, Peak Innovation (Vinnväxt initiative from VINNOVA) and Västsvenska Kemi- och Materialklustret.