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Clothing made of synthetic materials are believed to shed microfibers during home laundry, and can easily migrate from household waste water ultimately into the ocean, causing environmental pollution. Some states have proposed bills to address the issue.

SAFEGUARDS | Softlines NO. 076/19

Microfibre cleaning napkin

Clothing that is made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic may shed plastic microfibers in home laundering. These microfibers escape filtration finding their way into water systems and ultimately into the oceans, causing a major source of pollution. Some researchers find that microfibers may pose threats to waterways and aquatic life, and eventually human health. To address the growing concerns of microfibers, three U.S. states have proposed legislation to bring awareness to consumers about reducing the release of microfibers.

The legislature in California proposed a bill, AB 129 early this year, to recognize the emerging threat that microfibers pose to the environment and to make related declarations. The bill requires the state board to identify best practices for clothing manufacturers to reduce the amount of microfibers released into the environment, evaluate microfiber filtration systems, adopt a standard methodology for evaluating the filtration systems, and publish the results of filtration efficiency of various filtration systems. The bill also requires a public entity that uses a laundry system, and a private entity that contracts with a state agency for laundry services, to install a filtration system to capture microfibers that are shed during washing by 1 January 2020. Until 1 January 2021, the bill requires private entity that uses an industrial or commercial laundry system to install a filtration system to capture microfibers.

In May 2018, Connecticut passed House Bill 5360 to address microplastic pollution. Based on the House Bill, a working group of representatives from the apparel industry and environment community was convened to develop a consumer awareness and education program concerning the presence of synthetic microfiber pollution. The program shall include consumer-oriented information explaining the process by which microfibers are shed from clothing and dispersed in the waterways, best practices for consumers to eliminate or reduce the shedding, and information on the efforts of apparel industry members, including labelling, that are undertaking to reduce or eliminate microfibers shedding.

New York Assembly Bill A01549 was introduced In April 2018, which proposes labeling of garments containing more than 50% synthetic fiber to encourage hand-washing and to label the products as contributing to microfiber waste. If passed, the regulation would be effective January 1, 2021.

References

1 California Assembly Bill 129
2 Connecticut House Bill 5360
3 New York Assembly Bill A01549
4 SGS SafeGuards No. 026/18

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Consumer and Retail — Softlines
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