When synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon and acrylics are washed, microfibres are released into the water system and disturb natural ecosystems. Each year, approximately 500,000 tonnes of microfibres – the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles – enter the ocean from washing clothes.*
H&M Group is highly concerned about the environmental impact of microfibres and is actively driving research forward to find industry-wide solutions. This needs to be addressed at several stages throughout the value chain, including design, production, usage and end-of-life, which is why we cooperate with other stakeholders to find effective solutions covering all stages. These are four of the most urgent needs of the industry:
• A global standardised test method to enable credible, comparable and transparent product testing.
• A full understanding of how various production processes contribute to the problem, and what can be done to avoid it (e.g. installing filters, altered processes).
• A full understanding of how yarn- and fabric constructions and compositions contribute to the problem in order to start taking effective steps towards lower risk yarns- and fabrics.
• Effective filter solutions, to both retro-fit existing laundry machines, and to make sure new ones enable risk-free garment and textile care.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of our current activities on microfibers where H&M Group participates to develop solutions to the above:
• Participation in the SWEREA (a Swedish research group) coordinated project MinShed with the goal to help the textile industry design clothes made of synthetic fabrics that do not emit microfibres. The project is also looking at aligning with others regarding the test method, which is crucial to be able to compare tests results and secure progress. Read more at https://www.swerea.se/en/MinShed
• Through the MinShed project, we also support investigations of the potential to equip washing machines with filters to reduce emissions of microfibres during the use phase.
• Develop research programs to create a good understanding of how and where to best reduce microfibre emissions throughout the production of textiles.
• We have added laundry bags specialized on filtering microfibres to the assortment and are rolling it out to more and more markets. Microfibre-reducing laundry bags aim to prevent the release of microfibres into the water system during washing.
• We are closely monitoring the development of alternative bio-degradable fibres that potentially could be used as alternatives for today’s synthetic fibres.
• Replacing virgin synthetic fibres for recycled versions such as recycled polyester and nylon, and our support of development of related recycling technologies will have an indirect positive effect as it incentives a responsible handling and collection of materials to avoid its degradation into microparticles in nature.
*Source: A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future by Ellen MacArthur Foundation & CFI pg 39.