Biopile, a bio-degradable fleece fabric developed in partnership between Pontetorto and Vaude, has received the Performance Award for innovation in textiles at the Performance Days held in Munich last month. Vaude says that the fleece fabric with a brushed back manufactured by the Italian fabrics specialist is the first to be bio-degradable even in marine water.

The launch comes as several sports and outdoor organizations and gear suppliers are working on the issue of micro-plastics, which may be released into rivers, lakes and seas. While the inner side of fleece is often made of polyester, that side of Biopile consists entirely of Lenzing's cellulose fiber, Tencel. Should the fabric release even the smallest of Tencel particles during a washing process, Vaude says they will decompose without residue in any environment in 90 days.

Biopile will be launched exclusively by Vaude in its next fall/winter range. The German company says that the material, belonging to Pontetorto's Ecosystem family, combines environmental responsibility with the benefits of functionality, since Tencel is regarded as a natural fiber with outstanding climate-regulating and moisture-transporting properties. Biopile's outer surface is made with fully recycled polyester.

It was announced in September that the German sporting goods industry association (BSI), the Adidas Group, Polartec and Vaude are taking part in a three-year research project funded by the German federal ministry of education and research, to try and reduce micro-particles shed when textiles made with synthetic fibers are washed. The Textile Mission project started from the beginning of September is funded with a budget of €1.7 million from the German government and coordinated by BSI.

The European Outdoor Group (EOG) is leading the Outdoor Industry Microfiber Consortium, which was formally launched in May, with the Scandinavian Outdoor Group (SOG) 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.

The consortium announced this week that its latest project is to start working on an infographic and roadmap, alongside an applied research project. Both are meant to build a shared understanding of the complex challenges presented by microfibers, and to learn about the factors that could help to find and implement solutions in the outdoor and apparel industries.

The new infographic will visualize the interlinked parts of the microfiber pollution issue, involving raw materials and processes across the supply chain, and later in the consumer-facing part of the industry. The roadmap will then outline an industry-wide action plan against a set timeframe.

This one-year project will be carried out by the University of Leeds, starting with a pilot test for a methodology to provide an industry standard on microfibers. The consortium regards this as a vital step to enable the evaluation of fabric performance, and a precursor for the development of new materials and innovation. The research will then strive to establish why microfiber shedding occurs, and in what way that may be influenced by various factors in terms of production and use. 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.