There are many problems associated with the use and management of plastics and their impact on the environment. One part of this problem are microplastics, small, non-biodegradable fragments measuring less than 5 mm. Microplastics are considered an emerging pollutant by the EU, as their presence in the environment and in organisms has only recently been recognised. The microscopic size of some microplastics allows them to cross cell membranes and accumulate in organisms, producing a bioaccumulation along the trophic chain reaching humans and posing a serious health risk.
Textile products in general are responsible for part of this problem, as they are one of the sources of microfibre emissions, some of which can be considered microplastics if they are of non-biodegradable synthetic origin, such as polyamides or polyesters. Microfibre emissions are produced both during the textile production process and during the useful life of the finished products, during washing and drying. Industrial and domestic wastewater treatment systems retain a good part of these microplastics, but some escapes, reaching rivers and finally the seas, and deposited in ecosystems.
Detecting and quantifying microplastic pollution is a real technological challenge. The diversity in composition, size, morphology and origin of these particles makes their characterisation and quantification difficult.
AITEX is a member of both national (CTN040/GT10 “Microplastics of textile origin”) and international (CEN-TC248-WC37 and ISO/TC38/WG34) standardisation technical committees for the establishment of common methodologies to determine microplastic emissions from textile products.
The Spanish textile sector needs to actively address the problem of microplastics, minimise its environmental impact and use more sustainable products if it is to be a leader in the global framework.
In response to this need, AITEX is working on different projects, a brief description of which is attached below:
– To establish methodologies to characterise and quantify microplastic emissions. These methodologies are in line with the latest scientific advances, and present solutions adapted to the needs of each industry enabling the microplastics emitted into the environment to be monitored.
– To reduce the impact of microplastics of textile origin. AITEX maintains its commitment to the sustainability of the sector, adapting production processes to minimise the emission of textile microplastics, as well as in the treatment of textile wastewater, including new water treatment technologies capable of retaining the microplastics present in the effluents, preventing them from reaching aquatic ecosystems.
– To develop more sustainable materials to replace non-biodegradable synthetic materials with more biodegradable materials with the same performance.
Tackling the problem of textile microplastics requires the introduction of innovative solutions throughout the production chain. Innovations that must be adapted to the casuistry of each company, to enable the sector to improve its sustainability and competitiveness in the face of competition.