H&M Group is highly concerned about the environmental impact of microfibres and is driving research to find industry-wide solutions.

Overview from the 2019 Sustainability Report.

When synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon and acrylics are washed, microfibres are released into the water system and end up in natural ecosystems. Each year, approximately 500,000 tonnes of microfibres — the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles — enter the ocean from washing clothes.*

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. 

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, changing processes).
  • Greater knowledge of how yarn and fabric constructions and compositions contribute to the problem so that effective solutions can be found.
  • Better filters for washing machines, including retrofitting existing washers, to capture microfibres before they enter the water system.

We are working with others to meet these industry needs. Here are our main actions:  

  • We participated in the RISE  (a Swedish research organisation) coordinated project MinShed with the goal to help the textile industry design clothes made of synthetic fabrics that do not emit microfibres. The project included researching better filters and aligning with others on a universal test method.
  • Collaborating with other pioneering organisations and research colleagues as a signatory for The Microfibre 2030 Commitment, a roadmap setting out coordinated research and meaningful, science-based action to eliminate microfibre pollution.
  • Initiating a 24-month research project, ‘A Management Tool for Microplastics from Textile Production Process’, together with The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA). Launched in 2019, the project closely studies the release of microplastics and their management in textile manufacturing processes.
  • Developing research programmes to create a good understanding of how and where to best reduce microfibre emissions throughout textile production.
  • Offering laundry bags that prevent microfibre emissions during washing as part of our assortment in selected stores and online. We are currently rolling this out to more markets.
  • Closely monitoring the development of bio-degradable fibres that potentially could be used as alternatives for today’s synthetic fibres.
  • Replacing virgin synthetic fibres with recycled versions, such as recycled polyester and nylon.  Our support for the development of related recycling technologies will have an indirect positive effect because it encourages the responsible handling and collection of materials which prevents degradation into microfibres.

* Source: A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future by Ellen MacArthur Foundation & CFI pg 39.

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