Sandra Roos new Doctor in Environmental Systems Analysis of Clothes

Sandra Roos new Doctor in Environmental Systems Analysis of Clothes

6 February, 2017

What type of clothes should we buy? At which temperature should we wash our clothes? Companies as well as people have experienced contradictory facts about the environmental impact of clothes. Sandra Roos has gathered quantitative data of the environmental impact of clothes based on a life cycle perspective. Now, it is possible to calculate the environmental impact of a garment and how effective different improvement measures are.

On January 19, Sandra Roos at Swerea IVF defended her doctoral thesis in Environmental Systems Analysis at Chalmers University of Technology, titled ”Advancing life cycle assessment of textile products to include textile chemicals. Inventory data and toxicity impact assessment”.

Sandra has used life cycle assessment (LCA) to evaluate the environmental impact of clothes. The advantage with LCA is that it gives a quantitative measure of environmental impact (e.g. climate change and water depletion) and takes the whole life cycle into consideration; from extraction of raw material to the disposal of the product. When it comes to assessing the environmental impact of clothes, LCA has a weakness: it has (so far) not dealt with the impact of toxic substances very well. Toxicity is an important issue for the textile industry, where 15,000 different chemicals are used today. The variation itself is an obstacle for gathering data of all of the chemicals.

Sandra’s thesis describes a procedure for systematic inventorying and characterising of chemicals in LCA for textiles. The procedure is based on the functions that the chemicals have in textile products and processes. By inventorying and characterising a carefully selected subset of all the chemicals in use in the textile industry, it is possible to make a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact of clothes.

Professor Michael Hauschild from DTU in Denmark acted as opponent. He is one of the creators behind the USEtox method, which Sandra has used to characterise the toxicity of the chemicals.

The work has mainly been funded within Mistra Future Fashion, who will now take the result further and make it applicable for Swedish fashion companies.