Textiles: the release of fibre fragments and microplastics

Security and Protection

About 2 million tonnes of fibre fragments and microplastics are released into the world's oceans every year. They come from a variety of sources such as the fragmentation of fishing nets and illegal discharges. Unfortunately, discharges from domestic washing also play their part. Their chemistry is very diverse: not only do synthetics populate our oceans, but cellulosics and proteins are also widely present, as shown by a recent study that sampled the waters of seas and oceans.

In order to mitigate the negative environmental impact of the type of pollutants in the textile sector, it is necessary to monitor the release of fibre fragments and microplastics from textiles during washing. Centrocot is working in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) working group to develop a method to quantify the release of the solid polymer component of a textile during routine maintenance.

The joint efforts led to the creation of ISO/DIS 4484 ‘Textiles and textile products – Microplastics from textile sources’, which is still in the approval phase. The standard is divided into three parts to better specify the qualitative and quantitative investigation of the loss of polymer fragments.

The standard specifies the distinct steps of the method which can be summarised as:

– Sample preparation

– Simulation of the washing process

– Filtration

Quantification of fibre and polymer fragments released from the textile

The result is expressed as mg of fibre or polymer fragments released, percentage of fibres released and in some cases in mg/kg.

Centrocot has been carrying out this type of investigation for more than two years, on different polymer matrices (orthogonal fabrics, knits, printing polymers, coated fabrics, sponges, TNT….).

It is able to carry out the test by simulating all types of washing, such as hand washing and dry cleaning.

This possibility to carry out washing required in the textile sector, allows the customer to choose the best washing for his product in accordance with ISO 3758 regarding maintenance labelling.

An example is given below:

An economic operator has to place on the market a jacket padded with polyester fibre. According to laboratory tests (ISO 3758), this garment can be washed either at 30°C in a washing machine  or by dry cleaning  .



For information on laboratory tests: Simona Bellan (simona.bellan@centrocot.it).


Francesco Dellino, Multisectoral Research and Innovation Dept.
Simona Bellan, Ecological Laboratory