Often at the end of a textile product life cycle, we make the decision on how best to dispose the product. For a sustainable future, we could consider biodegradability. What is needed for successful biodegradation?

The textile and apparel industry is based on intensive use of resources. But resources are finite. Biodegradability of textile products can be one solution to drive sustainability. If a product is biode-gradable, it decomposes into substances that provide the basis for new life and resources. How well a textile is biodegradable depends, among other things, on its composition, and which raw materials were used during its manufacture, along with the chemical structure and the dye, print, finishes applied?  All have a strong influence on the biodegradation process.

For certain product groups, such as functional textiles, biodegradability is still particularly difficult to implement. This is because chemicals and fossil-based raw materials are often used here to ensure a certain function, such as water repellency or flame protection. This can inhibit or even prevent biodegradation. It is necessary to rethink and develop new materials.

In search of future-oriented fibers

Politics aims to encourage this with stricter regulations in the near future. The European Green Deal and the associated Textile Strategy have already paved the way for regulatory tightening. Therefore, the search for alternative fibers based on circular and renewable resources is becoming increasingly important. There is also increased research into the biodegradability of chemically treated petrochemical textiles.

In order to be competitive, future-oriented, sustainable unique selling propositions are needed, as well as knowledge about potential negative effects of textile products on the environment. In this respect, testing by independent testing laboratories plays a crucial role. Only companies that are aware of their textiles’ environmental impacts can proactively minimize them and thus prepare for upcoming regulations at an early stage.

Biodegradability must be demonstrated through a biodegradation test for a product to be labelled as biodegradable. And even if it can be completely biodegraded, the further effects are complex and can lead to unpredictable, e.g. ecotoxicological consequences. Therefore, a biodegradation test should always be followed by an ecotoxicological test. Only then can a biodegradation test be fully evaluated as positive and environmental friendly.

Hohenstein offers testing of the biodegradability of textile products in different milieus such as soil and wastewater and the associated analysis of potential hazards to the environment. The tests can help meet the requirements of the Green Deal and resulting mandatory laws. After passing the tests, a label can be acquired that conveys trustworthy, proven sustainability statements to the end consumer.


Photo: Hohenstein / Thomas Wagner

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