Biodegradable textiles test

Posted by on mar 1, 2013 in Sustainability Mission | 0 comments

Biodegradable textiles test

BÖNNIGHEIM – Scientists in Germany claim to have developed unique laboratory tests, which when combined with traditional testing, replicate the decomposition of textiles in soil to allow retailers, textile chemical suppliers and recycling companies to accurately determine the environmental impact of fabrics going into landfill.

Irrespective of their fibre composition, all textiles will decompose under the influence of water and microorganisms when buried underground – it’s just a question of the rate of this decomposition and what they will release into the environment that is concerning legislators, scientists and of course, today’s modern consumer.

In particular, textiles treated with anti-microbial and anti-fungal finishes are giving cause for concern among European politicians – especially from Scandinavia – who are closely monitoring the effect these textile finishes may have on other organisms in the environment.

The decomposition of various natural and synthetic fibre raw materials together with associated chemical finishes are normally done with standard burial tests; but now, textile soil degradation studies are being carried out in laboratories at the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim, Germany, in what are being described as ‘unique’ experiments that offer an interesting alternative to extensive outdoor tests in terms of time and costs involved.

“The tests are absolutely new and are unique worldwide,” Rose-Marie Riedl from Hohenstein told Ecotextile News.

The research team is being led by Prof. Dirk Höfer and in contrast to traditional analytical testing of textile biodegradation, the new methods do not solely focus on verifying the presence of individual substances with known ecological hazards. “It is rather a consideration of influence of the sum of all individual substances and substance combinations on biological systems. The method uses marine bacteria, water fleas and fish eggs, among other things [to analyse soil contamination].”

Höfer told us that to assess the environmental impact of decomposition, “synthetic fibre from our customers is (first) buried for one year and then we investigate the aquatic toxicity of the soil samples. This is then replicated at the laboratory scale, according to (tests such as) DIN EN ISO 11721-1.”

The Hohenstein Institute says innovative tests include the use of bioluminescent bacteria to examine whether chemical substances, which are used on fabrics, for example textile finishes, are harmful to the environment. “If this is the case, the bioluminescence of certain marine bacteria types such as Vibrio fischeri will be affected.”

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