Nike is actively working with stakeholders across our value chain and cross-industry to identify long-term, scalable solutions to microfibers.
Microfibers are fibers that are shed from textiles during production, consumer use, or end of life, and end up in the environment. Microfibers can originate from synthetic or natural materials. Concerns about synthetic microfibers from polyester, nylon, and acrylic have increased as part of a larger ocean plastics problem. Currently the science behind the major sources and the potential environmental impacts of microfibers is not fully understood. Nike takes these concerns seriously and is actively exploring the sources of microfibers by working with the sporting goods industry and other industries to understand the issue and identify long-term scalable solutions across the value chain.
Considerations for a long-term approach include:
- Global standardized testing methodology: While there has been some research on microfiber shedding from various materials, none of the results can be compared to each other since they use different evaluation methods. A global standardized testing methodology is needed to provide consistent comparison and develop a standard baseline “shed” value for all materials.
- Testing & Research: It is paramount to understand and assess the sources of microfiber shedding and the potential for our own materials to shed microfibers. A full understanding won’t be available until there is a standardized testing methodology (above), but an initial assessment will provide important learnings on where to focus efforts.
- Supplier engagement: If we can mitigate microfiber shed at a consolidated source such as our material supplier factories, we may be able to address a significant contributor to microfiber pollution.
- Industry engagement: As with some of our other sustainable challenges, we need to collaborate across the industry in our shared supply chain to develop and accelerate the adoption of solutions.
- Consumer solutions: Researched and data-backed technologies that can help reduce the potential shedding of microfibers while washing clothes.
Nike is considering each of these areas through these efforts:
GLOBAL STANDARDIZED TESTING METHODOLOGY
Nike is actively participating in a cross-industry committee to develop a globally recognized AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists) testing methodology to create a harmonized approach to quantify the amount of microfiber shed from different types of materials and to better understand fiber loss in washing cycles.
TESTING & RESEARCH
Nike Chemistry and Apparel teams have conducted an initial study using an external test lab to evaluate the shedding rate of more than 50 Nike materials. The data provides insight into what materials are more likely to shed and at what rate. Tests to determine shed rates were conducted at 0, 5 and 20 washes. The research indicates that the majority of the shedding occurs in the first few washes only. This research will be important in determining where to focus future efforts.
Wastewater discharge from apparel and footwear manufacturing can include microfibers that shed from cotton and polyester fabric during dyeing and finishing operations. Nike is working with suppliers to investigate methods to measure microfibers in wastewater and to understand mitigation options during materials production. In 2017, Nike scaled the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines across its source base. These guidelines address total suspended solids, which include microfibers. These suspended solids can be removed from wastewater with cost-effective, commercially available technologies.
As our supplier base has been striving to meet the requirements of the ZDHC Wastewater Guideline, the Nike Water Program has been championing these technologies. As of April 2019, key footwear and apparel materials suppliers that make up the source base for our 2020 water reduction and wastewater quality targets are utilizing these technologies as part of their wastewater recycling efforts.
Nike teams have provided input via industry associations in the European Union, which has led to a voluntary Cross Industry Agreement (CIA). The industry associations agreed to contribute to the development of international standardized test methods, support industrial research into feasible and effective solutions, and share successes.
Nike joined The Microfibres Consortium (TMC) in October 2019. TMC aims to facilitate the development of practical solutions for the textile industry to minimize microfiber release to the environment from textile manufacturing and during the product life cycle.
Both the Cora Ball and the Lint LUV-R are researched and data-backed technologies that can reduce the numbers of microfibers being washed away with home laundry water.
The Cora Ball is a laundry ball added to the wash that collects microfibers into visible fuzz so it can be disposed of in the right way. The Lint LUV-R is a washing machine discharge filter, originally designed for septic systems, that is installed to the discharge hose of a laundry machine. In testing, The Lint LUV-R captured an average of 87% of microfibers in the wash, compared to the Cora Ball which captured 26%.[i]