The Challenge

Microfibres, a subset of microplastics, are everywhere: our food, water, and even the air we breathe. An estimated 35 percent of all plastics[1] that end up in our oceans come from textile microfibres, of which the fashion and apparel industry is a major contributor. Worryingly, latest research indicates that microplastics are harmful to human and marine health, though the extent of its impact is yet to be fully grasped[2].

While there are consumer solutions that can reduce the amount of microfibres shed during washing such as lint traps, we also need to look upstream at the manufacturing processes in order to truly tackle the problem from end to end.

Can we reduce the amount of microfibre shed when our clothes are made? How can we understand the impact of manufacturing processes on microfibre shedding?

Our Solution

This project, Tackling Microfibres at Source, a partnership with, Ramatex, Nanyang Environment and Water Resources Institute (NEWRI), and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), sets out to develop solutions to reduce microfibre shedding during the manufacturing process.

By understanding which manufacturing processes and materials cause the most microfibre shed, we provide innovators opportunities for contributing pioneering solutions to tackle microfibre pollution. Doing so will enable steps towards a circular fashion industry, where waste and pollution are designed out and reduced on a whole. 

Learnings and insights from this project will be disseminated across the fashion industry pre-competitively in order to accelerate change and support manufacturer-driven innovation in Southeast Asia. It will also highlight the role of manufacturers as changemakers that can make a positive difference to environmental issues caused by the fashion industry.

We will be circulating:

  • A research report outlining findings from our research and testing methodology, and recommendations for fashion and textiles-dependent industries to develop solutions that reduce microfibre shed
  • An impact framework that guides manufacturers in assessing the environmental and social impacts of implementing solutions in textile manufacturing facilities
  • An industry engagement roadmap for key players in fashion and textiles that outlines necessary requirements for galvanising industry-wide transformation, including implications of our findings for their business and a database of stakeholders in the textiles and microfibre research community.

Our Role

We act as a convener, bringing together manufacturers, members of the scientific community and key players in the fashion industry to collaborate and co-create solutions to mitigate environmental and social impacts. 

Neither brands nor manufacturers can solve the problem of microfibre pollution alone; hence, we are facilitating a multi-sector approach in tackling this challenge to enable different actors to investigate and understand the complexity of the microfibre challenge. The project is guided by a strong emphasis on ensuring just and regenerative outcomesa future where planetary and human health are secured, social systems are fair and equitable. 

Tackling Microfibres at Source builds on the insights from Circular Leap Asia, our programme to empower fashion manufacturers in Asia to adopt and scale circular solutions.

In partnership with

This project was made possible through the support of UNDP’s Ocean Innovation Challenge (OIC), funded by Sida and Norad—a unique new mechanism that has been designed to accelerate progress on Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water, by identifying, financing, advising and mentoring truly innovative approaches to ocean and coastal restoration. We are also partnering with Ramatex, a leader in the textiles industry and world-class manufacturer for textiles and garments.

Get Involved

To find out more about how you can get involved in the project, please contact Karen Sim [email protected] 

Further Reading

Read more for the latest insights from this project:

Notes

[1] According to a 2017 report by IUCN, the other 65 per cent of microplastics in the ocean comes from tyres, city dust, road markings, marine coatings, personal care products and plastic pellets, with synthetic fibres making up the largest percentage.

[2] Various scientific authorities and international organisations, including the World Economic Forum, have reported that microplastics can carry a range of contaminants such as trace metals and potentially harmful organic chemicals.