TextileMission

Hochschule Niederrhein. Your way.
TextileMission

The “TextileMission” is a joint project. The project fuses the forces of companies in the sporting goods industry, washing machines and detergents branch, as well as research and environmental protection organizations, and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the funding priority 'Plastics in the environment, sources, sinks, solution approaches'. The project started in September 2017 and is to be finished by March 2021.

Initial situation

Plastic is an integral part within our day-to-day life, however we are often unaware of the dimension of problems arising alongside with it. The enormous amount of plastic produced leads to a tremendous amount of waste. This waste occurs due to the characteristic of plastics poor biodegradability. As a result plastic waste does not only ends up in landfills, but furthermore and in regards to the marine environment it also ends up in the ocean to a large extent.

A major contribution to the problem was recognized within microplastics, as due to its size (<5mm) it is easily absorbed by all organisms (e.g.  fish) and thus ends up within the food chain.

In regards to this topic, the main focus point is primarily the emergence and distribution of textile microplastics, which increasingly arise throughout manufacturing processes of synthetic textiles and the follow-up household washing procedures of those textiles.

60% -95% of all microplastic particles can be filtered out of the wastewater by sewage treatment plants. Despite these filtering processes within the sewage treatment plants, a significant proportion of microplastics remains in the clarified water (ready for e.g. consumption) and is then flushed into the environment.

The lack of knowledge about the total amount of microplastics and the corresponding entry pathways leads to a difficulty in determining  the extent of the problem. In order to get one step closer and to obtain further knowledge the "TextileMission" project was launched.

Objectives

The main objective in the realm of this project is to reduce the environmental pollution caused by microplastics. The pollution is the result of household washing of synthetic textiles. Various research approaches were identified for this purpose:

  • Textiles and garments are to be developed that have lower microparticle emissions. Additionally, different fibers / fiber combinations are examined.
  • In addition, the optimization of the sewage treatment plant technology is investigated, among other things the filtering of microparticles in the sewage treatment plant is examined
  • Washing and laboratory sewage treatment plant tests are carried out in order to obtain data on the extent and range of microparticle emissions from different textiles
  • At the end of the project, a catalog of measures to reduce textile microplastics in the environment is to be create.

Responsible of the project

The Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences is one of nine project partners of the "TextileMission", contact persons are the following professors at the university:

Prof. Ellen Bendt
Fashion Design - Knitwear and Innovative Product Design
Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Maike Rabe
Textile Finishing and Ecology
Mikroplastik
What is microplastic?

Microplastics should not be confused with microfibers (technological fibers with a diameter between 3-10 µm). Microplastics are particles with a diameter of less than 5mm. Particles of such a size can occur due to the abrasion of tires, the decay of packaging materials or the detachment of color particles and very important to mention throughout washing e.g. household washing or in the industrial production of textiles (finishing of textiles).

Mikroplastik
What is textile microplastic?

Textile microplastics are fibers with different diameters and a length of less than 5 mm that detach from synthetic textiles, for example in household laundry. They pose a particular problem because their “nature” (characteristics) does not allow full filtration.

Washing Tests

In order to determine the extent of the microplastic problem in household laundry, a status quo analysis was carried out in which over 850 cycles of household laundry were washed. Those cycles withheld sports and outdoor textiles produced by the project partners. 55,000 liters of water ran through filtration right after the washing process and therefore 2250 hours of data were conglomerated.

The collected data was analyzed for the amount and size of the filtered microplastic.

The washing tests also aim to optimize the washing processes; During the project a major finding was that the microplastic discharge is reduced with an increased (recommended) loading volume of the machine.

Fleecestoff
Developed fleece fabric

Polyester is one of the materials with the highest emissions of microplastics, therefore the material is being examined more closely as part of the project at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences. A focus is placed on non-woven materials, as they have a special roughened surface that is destroyed by a lot of mechanics.
They are currently working on the development of a new polyester fleece. During this, yarn tests are carried out and the combination of different materials is tested on a large circular knitting machine.
The reduction of fiber loss is approached since this represents the most sustainable option at the current time of research.

Another research approach is the biodegradability, with a focus on viscose. Although this is a synthetic material, it is based on the organic compound cellulose, with wood being used as the base product.
This material can be degraded under the optimal conditions of a laboratory sewage treatment plant, which, however, does not suggest that it will also degrade in the ocean, for example.

Furthermore, research is being carried out into alternative cutting and joining technologies, such as ultrasonic welding. This represents a clean technology, that creates no open cut edges and require no additional materials.

Quick Test
Quick Test

A quick test is being developed in collaboration with EURATEX and international research institutes, to quickly compare the plastic emission of different textiles in laboratory conditions. This makes it easier to reduce microplastic discharge from textiles.

Environment week - "Woche der Umwelt"

The “Woche der Umwelt” is an initiative of the Federal President and is organized in cooperation with the German Federal Environment Foundation (DBU).

The event is scheduled to take place in spring 2021 (the exact date will be announced), as it unfortunately could not take place in June last year due to Covid-19.

It will take place, as with the five previous “Wochen der Umwelt”, in the park of “Schloss Bellevue” in Berlin and is open to all interested visitors as well as to the invited specialist audience.

An extensive program of discussion groups and specialist forums can be expected, as well as the Ecologic Institute, which will present the research focus “Plastic in the Environment”. First scientific results and solution options from the research fields from 20 joint projects are presented, including the joint project "TextileMission".

Project partner

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