Don’t feed the fish: Prevent 190 thousand tonnes / yr of textile microfibres from polluting our oceans with plastic


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It is estimated that there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonne of fish in our ocean by 2025 and by 2050 the total mass (by weight) of plastic in our oceans will overtake that of fish. This is a depressing thought but what action can we take to change this predicted future? One part of the problem is microfibres, tiny threads shed from fabrics, contribute an estimated 190 thousand tonnes per year of primary micro plastics to our oceans.

Eunomia Marine Litter v8

Image Credit: Eunomia 2016

I work within an industry that globally produced in excess of 100 billion items of clothing in 2014 and this figure is rising. Innovation stems from challenge, and challenge can bring together great solutions: I believe, through the reengineering of textiles, we can prevent this from happening.  This project ‘Don’t feed the fish’ will form the groundwork needed to inspire and engage the industry to make change.

Your part in this

We all wear clothes, we all need water and we all have a part to play to solve this issue whether we wear clothes, or manufacture them. How can you help?

  • You wear clothes:
    • When you pledge your support know that your contribution will help us to solve this problem. This is our problem and we need to solve it together.
    • Help by passing the message on through your networks.
  • Yarn and fabric suppliers:
    • You produce millions of yards of fabrics, and making change at your level will have the most positive impact on this problem. Become an early ambassador of this work and pledge your bronze, silver or gold sponsorship to demonstrate to the industry that you support this issue.
    • Submit your samples for lab testing to be included in the database of results.
  • Brands and retailers:
    • You are the poster child for this issue and are responsible for the fabrics we put out to consumers. Become an early ambassador of this work and pledge your bronze, silver or gold sponsorship to demonstrate to the industry and to your customers that you support this issue.
    • Submit your samples for lab testing to be included in the database of results.

Learn More

A paper published in 2011 found that microfibers made up 85% of human made debris on global shorelines.  Since then, work in this area has been increasing slowly, but there is an immediate need to turn conversation into action.  So what do we know so far?

Oceans: Fact: This is a major issue at the ocean level where studies suggest that marine life is ingesting micro plastics which are killing them before they are able to reproduce.

Wastewater treatment: Fact: There are various stats to demonstrate how much micro plastic is being found at the waste water level but currently there is little work focused on capturing pollution here.

Industry:  Fact: The cosmetics industry contributes 35 thousand tonnes / year and has already banned microbeads in the US and Canada with EU to follow. The textile industry contributes 190 thousand tonnes / year but currently with no firm action plan in place to prevent this.

microfibres-found-inside-the-body-of-a-north-american-fish-photograph-rachel-ricotta_ap

Image Credit: Microfibres found inside the body of a North American fish after washing out of clothing and through the waste water systems. Photograph: Rachel Ricotta/AP

Domestic laundry: Fact: Research to date has found that top loading machines shed 430% more fibres than front loaders and we also know that older garments shed 80% more than newer garments.  But no action is being taken by the washing machine companies to capture plastic pollution within their machines.

Textile Development:  To date no deep textile development work has been carried out and it is this focus area the ‘Don’t feed the fish’ campaign is targeted.

Solving the problem: Phase 1

Textile ‘plastics’ or synthetics come in many different forms and we have to love them for it.  They are hugely adaptable and can be designed to do what we want!  Contrary to many people’s beliefs they are very sustainable and can use less water or energy than natural fibres to produce.  They keep us warm, cool, dry quickly, stretch well, they are strong, light, keep the wind out and our body heat in.  (Think of your fleece, or sports shirt, your rain jacket or swimwear.)  They are good in many ways; we just need to prevent them from shedding fibres as we wash them.

Phase 1 research (this campaign) will be focused around polyester and nylon in an entry-level piece of work.  We will start at the ground level to understand the basic building blocks required in manufacturing clothing, from the raw material first (polyester or nylon polymers), then the yarn, and finally the fabric.  Each process has an effect to the strength and ability for a piece of clothing to shed microfibers during wash and wear, or not.

Desk based research: Using existing research papers, patents and information we will formulate an overview of documentation at the polymer, yarn and fabric level.  We will uncover how each has an effect on fibre shedding, but more importantly identify what information is missing so that we can steer lab-based research accordingly.

Lab based research: Having identified the missing gaps found in desk based research, we will analyse polymers, yarns and fabrics in lab conditions, quantitative data to start to form the backbone understanding around why and how microfibers shed during wash and wear.

Outputs: The work from Phase 1 (this campaign) will enable us to show the industry that something can be done. Results will enable:

  • A formal brief to be set for Phase 2 and 3.
  • The early formulation of a data base of quantitative data in regards to polymers, yarns and textiles (polyester and nylon polymers).
  • The early formulation of a cross industry consortium to take progress work further.
  • Additional funding secured for subsequent work.

Solving the problem: Stretch Goals

The success of Phase 1 will enable our stretch goals to be kick started.  These include:

  • Textile engineering toolkit: A guide for the industry as to how to develop fabrics with zero to low fibre shedding.
  • Reengineered polymer / yarn / textile: A reengineered polymer / yarn / textile that has been developed to prevent microfibre shedding.

Why is this team the right team to deliver results?

Sophie Mather, Material Futurist, Founder of Biov8tion Ltd

07-sophie-bw-for-web

A material futurist with 20 years clothing and textile experience on the ground in Europe, Asia and the USA, working with clothing brands and retailers (including but not exclusive to Nike, Marks & Spencer), a breadth of supply chain partners from machine builders to chemical suppliers, and non profits oganisations (Sophie was previously board member to the Textile Exchange and is a Specialist Industry Advisor to WRAP).  Sophie as founder of biov8tion searches out industry challenges and formulates solutions by bridging the gap between pure research and commercial applications.

Professor Long Lin, BSc MSc PhD FIP3 FTSC FRSC, Department of Colour Science (formerly Department of Colour & Polymer Chemistry), Leeds University

long-lin-for-web

Long is the Chair of Colour and Polymer Science who joined the then Department of Colour and Polymer Chemistry in 1990 as a PhD student specialised in Polymer Science following his BSc (1983) in Polymer Science and Technology and MSc (1986) in Chemical Engineering.  The Department was established in 1879 and is internationally recognised as the leader in colour chemistry and textile dyeing. Throughout his entire career, Long has collaborated extensively with industry (mainly UK and continental Europe) including dyes, pigments and textiles.  He is blessed with a group of truly outstanding researchers whose names are attached to a significant number of world-leading inventions.  Long’s long-standing research philosophy is to focus on world-leading applied research that brings about ground-breaking technologies to solve grand challenges – ‘go where no man/woman has been guided by a sense of duty and, to lead, not to follow’.

Budget Breakdown

A big thank you to all of the supporters of this work, for which this research and campaign would not be possible:

  • Leeds University Department of Colour Science (formerly Department of Colour and Polymer Chemistry) that are supporting this work.
  • The ongoing support of a global network of industry suppliers for providing samples for research.
  • Olivier Marc Thomas Leger olivierleger.co.uk for voluntary commission of the artwork in support of this campaign.

picture1

To thank you for your support

If you are pledging from outside the UK, please refer to a currency converter to work out the amount in your local currency.

Pledge £3
With our £3 pledges we can track who is interested and demonstrate to industry the need to make these changes.  Our vision is for a commitment from 1000+ supporters as an endorsement to industry for the need for this work

Pledge £12
Postcard mailed to you with an image created by Olivier Marc Thomas Leger, and including key stats around this topic.

Pledge £50
Early Bird SciArt:’A plastic ocean’, a limited edition enlarged Fine Art Giclée print (17.8 x 23.9cm) by Olivier Marc Thomas Leger that celebrates the life and beauty of our oceans (image below). Originally drawn at A6 with pen and ink, this limited edition print has been enlarged to ~A5 so you can enjoy exploring your new print and all it’s little doodles. Printed using colourfast water based pigments onto cotton rag 300gsm paper, the print has a lovely feel and beautiful quality that will not fade for 80+ years. Driven by a sustainable ethos, materials are recycled, re-used and sourced with the environment in mind, even the printers are recovered second hand machines! So treat yourself or a friend and feel great that you’ve helped the future of our oceans.

Pledge £75
SciArt: Limited edition sustainably printed archive print by Olivier Marc Thomas (see above)

Pledge £1000
Bronze Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Bronze Ambassador of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans.  Your brand / organisation is welcome receive promotion as an ambassador in media outreach during the campaign activity. Your sponsorship will enable 1) early quantitate data collection, in regard to polymers, yarns and textiles 2) a formal brief to be set for Phase 2 and 3 (See campaign stretch goals) 3) To become part of a focused consortium to steer this forwards.

Pledge £2500
Silver Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Silver Ambassador of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans.  Your brand / organisation is welcome to receive promotion as an ambassador in media outreach during the campaign activity and during subsequent project outreach.  Your voice as a steering member of the work will be most valued.  Your sponsorship will enable 1) early quantitate data collection in regard to polymers, yarns and textiles 2) a formal brief to be set for Phase 2 and 3 (See campaign stretch goals) 3) To become part of a focused consortium to steer this forwards.

Pledge £5000
Platinum Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Platinum Sponsor of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans.  Please contact us directly to discuss how you would like your sponsorship to influence this work.

 

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    With our £3 pledges we can track who is interested and demonstrate to industry the need to make these changes. Our vision is for a commitment from 1000+ supporters as an endorsement to industry for the need for this work.

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    Post card: We will mail you a thank you postcard with an image created by Olivier Marc Thomas Leger

  • 7 Backers
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    Early Bird SciArt:'A plastic ocean', a limited edition enlarged Fine Art Giclée print (17.8 x 23.9cm) by Olivier Marc Thomas Leger that celebrates the life and beauty of our oceans. Originally drawn at A6 with pen and ink, this limited edition print has been enlarged to ~A5 so you can enjoy exploring your new print and all it's little doodles. Printed using colourfast water based pigments onto cotton rag 300gsm paper, the print has a lovely feel and beautiful quality that will not fade for 80+ years. Driven by a sustainable ethos, materials are recycled, re-used and sourced with the environment in mind, even the printers are recovered second hand machines! So treat yourself or a friend and feel great that you've helped the future of our oceans.

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    Limit of 90 — 89 remaining

    SciArt: Limited edition sustainably printed archive print by Olivier Marc Thomas (see above)

  • 1 Backer

    Bronze Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Bronze Ambassador of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans. Your brand / organisation is welcome receive promotion as an ambassador in media outreach during the campaign activity. Your sponsorship will enable 1) early quantitate data collection, in regard to polymers, yarns and textiles 2) a formal brief to be set for Phase 2 and 3 (See campaign stretch goals) 3) To become part of a focused consortium to steer this forwards.

  • Backers

    Silver Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Silver Ambassador of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans. Your brand / organisation is welcome to receive promotion as an ambassador in media outreach during the campaign activity and during subsequent project outreach. Your voice as a steering member of the work will be most valued. Your sponsorship will enable 1) early quantitate data collection in regard to polymers, yarns and textiles 2) a formal brief to be set for Phase 2 and 3 (See campaign stretch goals) 3) To become part of a focused consortium to steer this forwards.

  • Backers

    Platinum Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Platinum Sponsor of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans. Please contact us directly to discuss how you would like your sponsorship to influence this work.

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  • 5 Backers

    With our £3 pledges we can track who is interested and demonstrate to industry the need to make these changes. Our vision is for a commitment from 1000+ supporters as an endorsement to industry for the need for this work.

  • 11 Backers

    Post card: We will mail you a thank you postcard with an image created by Olivier Marc Thomas Leger

  • 7 Backers
    Limit of 10 — 3 remaining

    Early Bird SciArt:'A plastic ocean', a limited edition enlarged Fine Art Giclée print (17.8 x 23.9cm) by Olivier Marc Thomas Leger that celebrates the life and beauty of our oceans. Originally drawn at A6 with pen and ink, this limited edition print has been enlarged to ~A5 so you can enjoy exploring your new print and all it's little doodles. Printed using colourfast water based pigments onto cotton rag 300gsm paper, the print has a lovely feel and beautiful quality that will not fade for 80+ years. Driven by a sustainable ethos, materials are recycled, re-used and sourced with the environment in mind, even the printers are recovered second hand machines! So treat yourself or a friend and feel great that you've helped the future of our oceans.

  • 1 Backer
    Limit of 90 — 89 remaining

    SciArt: Limited edition sustainably printed archive print by Olivier Marc Thomas (see above)

  • 1 Backer

    Bronze Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Bronze Ambassador of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans. Your brand / organisation is welcome receive promotion as an ambassador in media outreach during the campaign activity. Your sponsorship will enable 1) early quantitate data collection, in regard to polymers, yarns and textiles 2) a formal brief to be set for Phase 2 and 3 (See campaign stretch goals) 3) To become part of a focused consortium to steer this forwards.

  • Backers

    Silver Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Silver Ambassador of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans. Your brand / organisation is welcome to receive promotion as an ambassador in media outreach during the campaign activity and during subsequent project outreach. Your voice as a steering member of the work will be most valued. Your sponsorship will enable 1) early quantitate data collection in regard to polymers, yarns and textiles 2) a formal brief to be set for Phase 2 and 3 (See campaign stretch goals) 3) To become part of a focused consortium to steer this forwards.

  • Backers

    Platinum Ambassador: Demonstrate an early leadership position within the industry as a Platinum Sponsor of Don’t Feed The Fish: The prevention of textile microfibres polluting our oceans. Please contact us directly to discuss how you would like your sponsorship to influence this work.