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

The challenge

When fabrics are washed, either during production or by customers, natural and synthetic microfibres are released into the water system. These fibres end up in waterways and pollute ecosystems.

We still have a lot to learn about microfibres. For example, a full understanding of how yarn and fabric constructions as well as production processes contribute to the problem so effective solutions can be found.

There is also an urgent need for more research and a better understanding of the adverse effects of microfibres on humans and the environment. This will give the industry a better perspective on the relevant issues and how they correlate to, for example, fibre content or type of finish.

Our approach to microfibres

Microfibres need to be addressed at several stages throughout our value chain, including design, production, use and end-of-life, which is why we cooperate with other stakeholders to find effective solutions.

We’re developing a microfibres roadmap to formalise our current approach, which includes:

  • Sharing knowledge and information about microfibres across our supply chain to raise awareness and identify potential solutions.
  • Choosing and designing yarns and fabrics that minimise microfibre shedding.
  • Researching new production processes and requirements to minimise shedding.
  • Offering microplastic-reducing laundry bags to customers and supporting the development of laundry machine filter systems.
  • Improving technologies that enable reuse and recycling.

Projects and activities

The Microfibre 2030 Commitment

We signed up to The Microfibre 2030 Commitment – a global commitment to work towards zero impact on nature from textile fibre fragmentation by 2030. In 2023, we participated in the first progress report and we shared our test results on fibre fragmentation at a fabric level for their industry database. We are designing our roadmap to be in line with this commitment.

Management Tool for Microplastics

We initiated a 24-month research project called ‘A Management Tool for Microplastics from Textile Production Process’, together with the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA). The project closely studies the release of microplastics and their management in textile manufacturing processes.

Using soundwaves to recover microplastics

H&M Foundation (a privately funded foundation that aims to accelerate solutions towards a socially inclusive and planet positive textile industry) is supporting a project at HKRITA using sweeping acoustic waves in a specially shaped chamber to trap and recover microplastic fibres. Unlike existing filtration processes, Acousweep enables continuous water treatment and easy collection of microplastic fibres.

Using bacteria to break down microplastics

Another HKRITA project supported by H&M Foundation aims to identify and develop a microbial consortium, a group of diverse bacteria working together, to degrade microplastic. It focuses on the removal of microplastic released from textile waste.

Tackling Microfibres at Source

Our research work with Forum for Future showed that certain production processes that involve more force, such as conventional dying and washing, can result in more fibre shedding. It also showed that all materials shed a similar amount of microfibres. The project culminated in a report called “Tackling Microfibres at Source”, which was published in February 2023. It shares findings and recommendations of actions the fashion industry can take to reduce microfibre pollution.