TextileMission – An initiative against microplastics in the environment

Microplastic particles enter rivers, lakes and oceans from various sources and damage organisms in marine envrionments. They originate from various sources like abrasion of car tires, loosening color particles, decomposing packaging material, but also from household laundry. A large proportion of our clothing, including sports and outdoor textiles, consists of synthetic fibres (e.g. polyester) that release microparticles during the washing process.

The aim of this joint project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is to reduce the environmental impact of these tiny particles with a diameter of less than 5 mm. Nine organisations from the sporting goods industry, the washing machine and detergent industry, research and environmental protection contribute their respective know-how, pursuing an interdisciplinary research approach.

  • Based on textile technology research and the optimisation of the production processes new textiles and garments with significantly lower microparticle emissions than products currently available on the market will be developed. Together with the participating sportswear manufacturers the textile researchers are also testing biodegradable fibres as an environmentally friendly alternative.
  • The project partners aim to contribute as well to the optimisation of wastewater treatment technology. For example, the TU Dresden will investigate the fate of microplastic particles at various stages of a laboratory sewage treatment plant. Practical innovations at this point might have the advantage that they also contribute to the reduction of microplastic emissions from non-textile sources.
  • In addition, washing and laboratory sewage plant tests are used to systematically collect data on the extent and range of microparticle emissions from different garments in order to gain a better understanding of material flows and the fate of textile related microplastics in the environment.

In the end, a catalogue of measures will be developed giving concrete indications on how the input of microplastics from textiles into the environment can be reduced.

"TextileMission" will run over a period of three years from September 2017 to August 2020 as part of the funding line "Plastics in the Environment - Sources, Sinks, Solutions" of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The total funding amount is aprox. 1.7 million euros.