Fiber material

SGS: What is fiber fragmentation?

Consumer Compact|Softlines

Laboratory research has shown that microplastics interrupt the normal feeding and digestion processes of marine organisms when ingested. This is harmful not only to the individual creature, but also to the entire marine ecosystem. There is a real threat that this contamination will accumulate as it moves up the food chain.2

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that 90% of seabirds now have plastic in their stomachs.3 A recent study of seafood available in a California market found that 67% of all species had microplastics in their digestive tract. The majority of them have been identified as fiber fragments released from clothing and textiles during washing.4

Change is coming

Consumers and governments are aware of the problem and there is pressure for change. Although there is currently no legislation in force regarding the release of fibers from clothing and textiles, this is about to change. The Philippines has a pending House Bill and several bills have been proposed in the United States. The State of Connecticut has already passed a bill to develop a consumer awareness and education program regarding the presence of synthetic microfibers in clothing. In Europe, the European Union is currently working on a directive and France has passed a law stipulating that new washing machines must be equipped with a filter to capture fibers by 2025.

The industry is also reacting. In September 2021, the Microfiber Consortium (TMC) launched its Microfiber 2030 Commitment and Microfiber Roadmap. These will help manufacturers and brands achieve TMC’s vision of zero environmental impact by 2030.

Terminology

The term microfiber has been in circulation for several years. It is a synthetic fiber with a count of less than one denier (1 dtex). Although microfibers make up a significant portion of the microplastics found in our oceans, the problem of fragment release is not limited to synthetic fibers. The term microfiber is therefore only used to describe the linear density of synthetic fibres.

A better term is fiber fragment. This can be used for the full range of textiles – synthetics, naturals and blends. Organizations such as the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), Cross Industry Agreement (CIA) and TMC use this term to refer to a textile fiber that is less than 5mm in length and has separated from the textile body main. .

Fiber fragmentation

The action of a fiber released from the textile body is called fiber fragmentation. Minimizing this process throughout a product’s lifecycle is now a major concern for apparel and textile suppliers looking to demonstrate sustainability and corporate responsibility.

To achieve the Microfiber 2030 Commitment goals, manufacturers must be able to assess their garments and textile products for fiber fragmentation during laundering. The aim is to quantify fiber fragments in laundry effluents. They must also be able to assess the impact of different parameters – degree of fibers, construction of the fabric, type of final finish, etc. – on the fragmentation of fibers and to compare the reaction of different materials during washing. With this information, they will be able to make the right decisions regarding the choice of textiles when developing new products.

Fiber strength

Consumers and industry want textiles that demonstrate fiber strength – a textile material/product that resists breaking down during washing.

Forward-thinking manufacturers are actively seeking to develop end products that exhibit exceptional fiber strength performance. Various test methods now exist or are being developed to help them achieve this goal:

  • ISO/DIS 4484-1 – drafted by the CIA in collaboration with the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). The results of a round robin trial were published in September 20215
  • AATCCTM 212 – a small-scale test method published in August 2021
  • TMC test method – release March 2020

Two test paths exist for manufacturers verifying fiber strength:

  • On a small scale – understand fiber strength during product development by testing textiles under standard conditions to reflect home washing
  • Full-scale – part of due diligence, testing on finished garments/textiles using washing machines to simulate real life

By using both small and large scale testing regimes, brands and manufacturers can efficiently and cost-effectively develop end products that have good fiber strength performance. This will allow them to achieve the goals of the Microfiber 2030 Commitment, which will help wildlife and the environment.

SGS solution

SGS has been involved in fiber fragmentation studies and analysis since 2016.

We launched our first large-scale fiber fragmentation test solution in 2017 and, as a research organization, we helped the CIA develop small-scale test methodology. In 2021, we expanded our small-scale testing services offering with the addition of AATCC TM 212 and joined the TMC Testing Methodology Task Force.

With an unparalleled global network of state-of-the-art laboratories, we provide a full range of small and large scale testing services. These solutions can also be used to help manufacturers evaluate the effectiveness of fiber reducing products, such as filters and wash bags.

Find out more about SGS’s textile and apparel testing services.

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For more information please contact:

steve mcdonald
Global Technical Manager
Connectivity and products, SGS
Phone. : +44 (0)7818 514346

The references

1The ubiquitous distribution of polyester fibers in the Arctic Ocean is determined by inputs from the Atlantic
2Single and repetitive exposures to microplastics induce immune system modulation and altered homeostasis in the edible mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis
3Learn about the newly discovered ocean species: plastic
4Anthropogenic debris in seafood: Plastic debris and textile fibers in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption
5Textile and Apparel Industry Alliance moves closer to publishing international microfiber shedding standard