The European Outdoor Group (EOG) has teamed up with several other European organizations in the value chain of apparel production and maintenance, to work together on effective and economically feasible measures to tackle microplastic pollution.

The other parties in the agreement are the European Textile and Apparel Confederation (Euratex), the European Man Made Fibres Association (CIRFS), the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (AISE) and the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (Fesi).

The five parties are aiming to draft a formal proposal to the European Commission by the end of this year, to identify and quantify sources of microplastic pollution and find ways to work on potential solutions. The agreement could be regarded as a pledge by leading stakeholders in the textile industry to jointly tackle microplastic pollution, perhaps holding off the prospect of European legislation.

Microplastics have become a focus of environmental concern in the outdoor industry and the wider apparel business in the last years. The five organizations taking part in the tie-up state that it could potentially affect billions of people. Along with many other sources, fibers released in the process of washing textile items made with synthetic fibers, such as polyamide and polyester, may end up in the environment and enter the food chain through rivers, lakes and seas.

The five participants aim is to come up with realistic solutions that can be effectively implemented by the industry, consumers and the authorities. For a start, they want to agree on reliable and harmonized test methods to identify and quantify the type of microplastic in water and in the environment. Another aspect of the partnership is to define common priorities to fill knowledge gaps and advise on medium and long-term measures. The five parties further intend to support and participate in industrial research activities to investigate feasible options to tackle the release of microplastics.

The multi-party alliance comes after the launch of the Outdoor Industry Microfiber Consortium, which was announced by the EOG last May and formed with some of the group's members and partners. The consortium is led by the EOG, the Scandinavian Outdoor Group and Peak Innovation, along with Leeds University and Biov8tion, a sustainable innovation company, as scientific partners. It involves a dozen outdoor brands along with a few sports brands and other stakeholders such as Ikea and Marks & Spencer. Early findings were outlined at the OutDoor fair in Friedrichshafen in June, and more of the results will be outlined at Ispo in Munich later this month.

A few weeks ago the consortium embarked on a one-year project to establish why microfiber shedding occurs, and in what way that may be influenced by various factors in terms of production and use. It started working on an infographic to visualize the interlinked parts of the microfiber pollution issue, and a roadmap to outline an industry-wide action plan against a set timeframe. The ultimate goal is to help the industry address microfiber pollution through prevention, or the re-engineering of fibers and fabrics to make sure that they shed less.

As the EOG explains, the multi-party agreement is a project focusing on planning and strategy, while the consortium takes a more hands-on approach.

The two projects will intersect at least on the topic of test methods and measurements, which both want to help establish. The EOG consortium is also exchanging with other projects such as the Textile Mission, which was set up in the German sports and outdoor industry last year to combat microplastic pollution, and another project led by Swerea, a leading Swedish research institute.

The Textile Mission is a three-year research project around micro-particles involving the German sporting goods industry association (BSI), the Adidas Group, Polartec and Vaude. The partnership project is funded with a budget of €1.7 million from the German government. It has a two-pronged approach, to try and create textiles and clothing that release fewer microparticles, and to optimize wastewater treatment technology to remove the largest possible amount of particles. The Ispo presentation will include a speaker from BSI.

Vaude already developed Biopile, a bio-degradable fleece fabric, in partnership with Pontetorto. The German company said in November that the fleece fabric with a brushed back manufactured by the Italian fabrics specialist was the first to be bio-degradable even in marine water. The inner side of Biopile consists entirely of Lenzing's cellulose fiber, Tencel.