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The issue of microfibres

Microfibres are fibres that shed from clothing during production, use, or end of life, and end up as pollution in the environment. Microfibres can originate from all textiles – both synthetic and natural materials. All textile products shed microfibres (not just outdoor or fleece clothing). Shedding can occur during all phases of the product life cycle, including manufacturing as well as in the consumer use, care, and disposal.

The concern with microfibres is around their potential impacts to human health, to marine life, and to the environment. Research does not yet exist to confirm and better describe these potential impacts, though several projects are currently in progress and will hopefully provide this data.

Bergans is also part of different research projects and initiatives that are underway to address the key data gaps. These include:

  • The Microfibre Consortium (TMC) facilitates the development of practical solutions for the textile industry to minimise microfibre release. The work carried out by TMC has included the development of a standardised test method, and research concerning textile production.
  • The TMC has also contributed to the development of a common international standardised test methods to identify and quantify microfibres.
  • Microfibre project carried out by Norwegian Research organization SINTEF together with the NTNU University Trondheim and several Norwegian brands, amongst them Bergans.
  • MinShed, a collaborative research project coordinated by Swedish research organization RISE, where several industry partners from Scandinavia are gathered to drive research projects.

Why do we continue to use fabrics that are thought to shed microplastic fibres?

All textile materials shed over time, whether natural or synthetic. The industry is currently researching the shedding rates of various textile types via various projects; however, at this point, it is unclear which fibres have the highest release rate or overall impact.

Every fabric in the marketplace today has benefits and disadvantages, in terms of performance as well as impacts. The outdoor industry will continue to utilize a range of both natural and synthetic fabrics for a wide variety of applications. With research continuing on the specific impact factors regarding microfibres, we will hopefully in the near future have a better understanding and a basis for better informed decisions in our product development.

What is Bergans currently doing to address this issue:

  • We contribute to the development of a standardized test method to measure shed rates.
  • We contribute and support research and innovation around new fabric development
  • We collaborate with academic and research institutions, to support scientific studies and impact research that will allow us to make informed decisions about fabric choices.
  • We collaborate with other brands in the industry – often competitors – to address this issue via the key outdoor industry trade associations: the European Outdoor Group (EOG) in Europe and the Scandinavian Outdoor Group (SOG) in the Nordics.

What can we as consumers do:

Until standardized test methods are in place, there is no way to determine which fabrics are “better” or “worse” in terms of shed rates. Until that time, we can encourage you to:

  • Wash your clothes and home textiles less.
  • Wash clothing in cold water and use a lower spin cycle.
  • Utilize front-load washing machines where possible.
  • Line-dry instead of using a mechanical dryer.
  • Invest in a microfibre catch product like the Guppy Bag or Cora Ball or others.