News-Releases Index | Sympatex Technologies, Inc.
Partnership between NGOs, research and industry presents initial results of a study outlining the impact of microfibers from outdoor apparel on our waters at the 2019 ISPO (2/5/19)
Experts since long are in agreement that the only viable future for the global apparel industry lies in a
closed loop, in which the raw materials in the textiles are separated, recycled and re-used for new
products. While many companies have already begun to align their future product strategies with this
view, a few details still need to be worked out before such a closed loop actually functions 100 percent
without “collateral damage.” One of the Achilles heels was only recently discovered and the industry
has just begun to pinpoint the exact cause: microfibers released into our waters and oceans via
As small as they might be, their accumulated volume is so large that we can assume with a great
degree of certainty that there will be foreseeable consequences for the animal and human food chains.
Against this backdrop, Sympatex, long an undisputed trailblazer in the transformation of the functional
apparel industry to a closed textile loop, has joined forces with several expert partners to quickly
develop and drive corresponding solutions forward. At a press conference on day 2 of the 2019 ISPO,
Sympatex released the initial results of a joint study on the issue of “Microplastic & Functional Textiles”
together with the Plastic Soup Foundation, a leading interest group focused on tackling the global
plastic problem, the renowned Italian Research Council (IPCB-CNR), PlanetCare, a leading
manufacturer of microplastic filters for washing machines, and the recently-formed Plastic Leak
Project initiative, to which Sympatex belongs as a sponsor and partner.
In a broadly-structured, months-long series of studies, since the fall of 2018 researchers have been
examining mono-fraction polyester laminates from Sympatex - made of both recycled and non-
recycled shell and lining materials – to determine exactly which approaches will help minimize the
amount of microfibers released during the washing process. The initial results are promising. The
special Sympatex lamination process, in which the polyester shell and/or lining materials are bonded
with the Sympatex membrane, has been found to reduce the amount of microplastic particles that are
loosened by 50 to 70 percent compared to non-laminated textile material. While examining the
differences between recycled and non-recycled shell and lining materials, researchers were able to
demonstrate that the use of recycled fiber materials is just as advantageous as using new raw
materials. In some cases, even better values were achieved. The use of water-repellant, PFC-free
coatings on the surface of the materials has shown no significant improvements to date.
By this summer, the analyses will be deepened and expanded to include the entire Sympatex portfolio,
then enhanced with initial approaches for potential industrial optimization processes. The aim is to
have a set of recommendations available in time for the next season and to be able to begin optimizing
the apparel collections. At the same time, Sympatex is participating in the Plastic Leak Project from
Quantis in order to help provide the industry faster and better information regarding the actual extent
of the problem and to eventually make clear solutions available.
“Given the obvious ecological challenges, our underlying principle is not to wait until we understand
the full extent of a problem before we begin to take action. Our explicit goal is to find technical ways to
reduce the amount of fibers released by our laminates during washing by 85 percent, compared to
conventional polyester textiles. For the remaining 15 percent, we need the washing machine industry
and filters,” explains Dr. Rüdiger Fox, Managing Director at Sympatex.
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