Tuesday 20th June 2023


1.15pm - 4.00pm


Noorin Khamisani - Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Textiles and co-lead of the Fashion, Textiles and Material Futures Research and Innovation Group, Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, University of Portsmouth, UK

Karen Ryan - Course Leader Fashion Marketing, and co-lead of the Fashion, Textiles and Material Futures Research and Innovation Group, Creative and Cultural Industries, University of Portsmouth, UK




An opportunity to discuss current issues of plastic use within the context of fashion and textiles. Each year, the industry uses 342 million barrels of petroleum to produce plastic-based fibres such as polyester, nylon or acrylic. This equates to 1.35 per cent of the globe’s oil consumption. Worse still, these plastic-based fibres are responsible for 73 percent of microfibers pollution in Arctic waters and, according to the Ellen MacArthur  Foundation, the plastic packaging on which the fashion industry is largely reliant, is estimated to make up 26 per cent of the total volume of plastics created each year – 72 percent of which is thrown away. However you choose to measure its impact, the numbers are staggering. This session acknowledges these very pressing issues that the fashion industry and academia is currently facing. 

We will bring together scholarly experts and practitioners in the areas of plastic use, materiality and design to share their knowledge and experiences with fellow academics and practitioners. Scholarly, conceptual and practitioner papers are welcomed, especially those that address the following themes:


  • Fashion lifecycles vs plastic lifecycles
  • Alternatives to fossil fuel based plastics for fashion and textiles
  • Recycling of plastics
  • How can plastics fit within a sustainable future
  • Solutions to microfibre pollution from textiles
  • A transition to a circular economic environment
  • Single use plastic in fashion retail
  • Consumer intention behind recycled plastic waste product



Noorin Khamisani and Karen Ryan

University of Portsmouth



Kate Goldsworthy

Professor of Circular Design and Innovation, Co-Director, Centre for Circular Design (CCD), Deputy Director, Business of Fashion Textiles & Technology (BFTT), University of the Arts London (UAL), UK


Short Talks:

Dr Claudia Henninger

Presented by: Libby Allen

University of Manchester

Microplastic fibres released during washing of clothing: the unseen side of fashion

Lisbeth Løvbak Berg

Consumption Research Norway (SIFO), Oslo Metropolitan University

Textile waste – past, present and future? Synthetics in Norwegian textile waste in Norway 2000-2023

Dr Shreyas Patankar

Ocean Wise Conservation Association

Wash cycle design can reduce microplastic emission from home laundry

Tea Break

Short Talks:

Professor Lisa Macintyre

Heriot-Watt University

Fibre Fragmentation Scale – evaluating a proposed new method for reporting the results of fibre fragmentation testing

Dr Victoria Bemmer

University of Portsmouth

Enzymatic deconstruction of polyester textiles

Emma Bianco

Pure Earth Collection Ltd

Fashion and the plastic consequences

Panel Discussion



Microfibre pollution and the laundry process


Dr Claudia E Henninger, Arthur Garforth, Laurence Stamford, Edidiong Asuquow


Dr Claudia E. Henninger is a Reader in Fashion Marketing Management at The University of Manchester, Department of Materials, with a research interest in sustainability in the fashion industry. Her research focus is on the use and end-of-life phase of garments and textiles, which maps against the circular economy principles. Claudia is further the chair of the Academy of Marketing’s SIG Sustainability and an executive member of the Sustainable Fashion Consumption Network.

Microfibre pollution is a key concerned and gained global priority, with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP, 2022) and the European Environmental Agency (EEA, 2023) outlining that an increasing number of microplastics can be found on the world’s ocean floor, which can cause sever harm and damage to the ecosystem and subsequently flora and fauna.

Microfibres (particles < 5mm in diameter) are hidden pollutants that can either be airborne and break off garments/textiles in use (whilst wearing garments), or during the laundry/cleaning process. The latter, laundering process, remains currently under-explored, yet is of vital importance to understand, as is a high risk of microfibres to enter the wastewater stream, and thus, microfibres ending up in our oceans. It is estimated that 0.48-4.28 million metric tonnes of microfibres enter the environment annually, 35% of which are attributed to laundering (synthetic) garments/textiles. With increased garment/textile production this issue will continue to accelerate and needs to be address urgently (Galvin, 2015).

Whilst there is an increased awareness of microfibres, currently prevention strategies, those that hinder these microfibres to enter the natural environment are either limited or not necessarily available at scale. Moreover, prevention strategies need stakeholder buy-in in order to ensure microfibres are disposed of in an effective manner and thus, are actually prevented from entering the environment.

What currently remains unknown is what best practices exist, especially within the laundering industry, and how and whether these can be scaled.

Title: Textile waste – past, present and future? Synthetics in Norwegian textile waste in Norway 2000-2023
Authors: Lisbeth Løvbak Berg1, Anna Schytte Sigaard1, Ingun Grimstad Klepp1, Kirsi Laitala1
1. Consumption Research Norway SIFO, Oslo Metropolitan University

Lisbeth Løvbak Berg is a Fashion Futurist, design thinker and sustainability researcher, with years of experience in the fashion industry, both as a consultant and a business owner, as well as teaching at Middlesex University, London. She has a Master's degree in fashion and sustainability from the MA Fashion Futures course at the London College of Fashion, UAL, where she studied the future roles of and relationships between consumers and fashion designers through consumer research and scenarios based on circular clothing consumption.

She is currently a research assistant in the clothing research group at Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) and has published on textile policy development and the systemic barriers to good resource utlilization of local wool in the EU. Her research interests are policy, system change, futuring, sustainability and consumption.

An increasingly large share of textile production consists of synthetic fibres and this trend is projected to continue by the textile industry. Simultaneously, awareness of the adverse effects of plastics is increasing and policy initiatives are increasingly expressing goals to reduce plastics. However, plastic textiles have until now escaped the scope of plastic regulations, and textile regulations have shown little interest in reducing plastic fibre usage. The EU Waste Framework Directive, Article 12b DIRECTIVE (EU) 2018/851, dictates that textiles shall be collected in separate waste streams by 2025. This directive also applies to Norway through the EEA agreement and raises questions about the volumes of these future textile waste streams, their content, management and potential use areas, etc. To understand the composition of the Norwegian textile waste streams and how they may evolve over time, this study therefore examines the historical development of textile waste and disposal habits of consumers in Norway, with a specific focus on fibre content, providing a timeline that can guide policy when taking plastic textiles into account. The study is a part of the Wasted Textiles Project, aiming to reduce the use of synthetic textiles and the amount that goes to waste. The data is collected using two methods: wardrobe studies; a mixed method approach to understanding clothing consumption, and picking analysis; a waste audit method. It consists of a re-analysis of historical data of discarded clothing collected during wardrobe studies in 2000 and 2010, along with two new studies conducted in 2021-2023: picking analysis from the current Norwegian textile waste streams and wardrobe studies of 28 Norwegian households. The findings show how the textile composition of the waste streams follows trends in global production, what types of garments and fibres are being disposed of and in what condition. These findings have implications for the entire textile value chain – from production to waste reduction/management and recycling - and for policy, where knowledge about consumers and the waste streams is crucial to create the desired, just transition, that decreases environmental impacts. The study further shows how the data and methods can guide policy development.

Title: Wash cycle design can reduce microplastic emission from home laundry
Authors: Shreyas Patankar1, Stephanie Wang1, Kevin Landrini1, Anneka Vanderpas1, Negar Zaghi1, Charlie Cox1
1. Ocean Wise
Biography: Dr Shreyas Patankar is a Research Scientist at Ocean Wise, a global conservation non-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. He specializes in using analytical tools to understand scale and identify sources of microplastic pollution in the ocean. His research aims to inform targeted action by governments, corporations, and individuals to cut down plastic pollution. Shreyas holds a PhD in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously worked with novel materials for energy technology at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California, and the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute in Vancouver. Outside of research Shreyas pursues direct climate action by volunteering as a door-to-door canvasser for climate-positive politicians and political parties.

Home laundry is a major source of microplastic pollution and is endangering ocean health and, potentially, human health. Globally, an estimated 40,000 tonnes of microfibers are being released to the ocean per year [1], and microfibers of textile origin have been found to be pervasive in even the most pristine environments, such as the Arctic Ocean [2]. To address this pressing concern, we investigate whether adjustments to wash conditions can help to reduce microfiber shedding during home laundry. Building on prior research that studied microfiber shedding variation between different textile materials and constructions [3], we conducted a series of experiments to systematically measure microfiber shed rates during different wash conditions. Over one hundred washes were conducted using loads of polyester jerseys weighing approximately two kilograms, representative of the weight of a typical consumer laundry load. We found that low intensity or “gentle” wash conditions can reduce microfiber shedding by approximately 70%. Further research is needed to determine the specific relationship between laundry washes and the microscopic breaking and release of microfibers that generates shedding. Future life cycle analysis-style research is also needed to understand whether reducing microfiber shedding in home laundry lengthens the life of consumer textiles and can therefore generate a net reduction of microfiber pollution in the ocean in the long-term. Ocean Wise is using these findings to drive a radical reduction in the flow of microfibers into the ocean through continued collaboration with home appliance manufacturers, apparel companies, and industry associations, while also engaging and empowering communities to take positive action for the oceans.

[1] SYSTEMIQ PC. Breaking the plastic wave: A comprehensive assessment of pathways towards stopping ocean plastic pollution. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2020.

[2] Ross PS, Chastain S, Vassilenko E, Etemadifar A, Zimmermann S, Quesnel SA, Eert J, Solomon E, Patankar S, Posacka AM, Williams B. Pervasive distribution of polyester fibres in the Arctic Ocean is driven by Atlantic inputs. Nature communications. 2021 Jan 12;12(1):1-9.

[3] Vassilenko E, Watkins M, Chastain S, Mertens J, Posacka AM, Patankar S, & Ross PS (2021). Domestic laundry and microfiber pollution: Exploring fiber shedding from consumer apparel textiles. PLOS ONE, 16(7), e025034

Title: Fibre Fragmentation Scale – evaluating a proposed new method for reporting the results of fibre fragmentation testing
Authors: Sophia Murden1, Lisa Macintyre1
1. School of Textiles and Design, Heriot-Watt University
Biography: Lisa Macintyre is a textile technologist and Associate Professor who has been teaching and researching textile performance and functionality for more than 25 years. She has worked with Industry, the NHS and research institutes to improve the functionality and performance of a wide range of textile-based products. Her impact case study, on medical compression testing and functional design, was rated as 4* in REF 2021. Her work has been supported by Industry, charities and research funders; she has published, supervised PhD candidates and regularly reviews for international journals and research funders. She has won prizes for her teaching and research and is passionately committed to both. She is currently working on issues relating to improving the sustainability of the textile Industry and reducing the pollution associated with it.

Fibre fragments are released into the environment from textiles and clothing during both laundry and wear. Fibres have been found in every environment researchers have looked for them, from the deepest oceans to remote streams and glaciers, in our homes and work places, in the digestive tract of snails and the lungs of humans. 70% of the 100 million tonnes of textile fibres manufactured in 2016 were ‘plastic’ and more than 65% of all polyester polymer manufactured annually is used in fibre form.

So far, research into the source of ‘microfibres’, and test method development efforts, have focussed on wash testing of textile samples. Early papers reported the number of fibre fragments shed from textiles based on manual counts of fibres left behind when the effluent, or aliquots of effluent, were filtered. This counting process was prohibitively time consuming for Industrial application. Most of the more recent papers, ASTM, DIN and draft ISO test methods recommend gravimetric methods for reporting fibre loss during laundry. Our work has shown that gravimetric methods are not as reliable as they first appear, specialist scales are required and the mass of fibres fragmenting in each wash are so tiny that the errors in the measurement process are frequently larger than the results themselves.

Thus, the aim of our work was to devise and evaluate a visual Fibre Fragmentation Scale (FFS) that follows similar principles to other, Industrially accepted, visual scales used to evaluate pilling, colour fastness and shower-proofness in ISO test methods. We have developed several versions of an FFS scale and a training exercise that can quickly train users in the FFS rating system and concurrently discern the reliability of individual raters. Some raters have been found to have excellent consistency, accuracy and reproducibility, delivering reliable and easily communicable results quickly and efficiently. We suggest that the Fibre Fragmentation Scale could be an effective communication tool for brands wanting to communicate their textile’s fragmentation propensity/resistance to their consumers.

Title: Enzymatic deconstruction of polyester textiles
Authors: Victoria L. Bemmer, Gustavo Borian, Elain Rudge, Paul Cox, Andrew R. Pickford
Biography: Dr Victoria Bemmer is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre For Enzyme Innovation. Her work is focussed on enzymes for recycling of waste plastics, and is an expert in surface analysis and imaging.
She completed her PhD in Chemistry at Cardiff University, and then established and ran the departmental AFM facility at Imperial College for several years. She joined the University of Portsmouth in 2020, and since then has been developing novel surface studies of enzyme activity. One of her current projects is focussed on developing enzymes to breakdown waste polyester textiles.

Enzymes are biological catalysts which can act as scissors to break down large molecules such as plastics. At the Centre for Enzyme Innovation we have developed enzymes capable of breaking down PET plastic such as that found in single use bottles. These enzymes cut the plastic chains at specific points, producing a 'soup' of smaller molecules, or monomers, which can then be used to produce new plastics with identical properties to the original fossil fuel derived material. Enzymatic based recycling is an attractive alternative to current recycling solutions due to the lower energy consumption and retention of properties such as strength and malleability.

Currently only around 10 % of waste polyester textiles are recycled at end of life, and whilst they are chemically the same as PET bottles, they are much tougher due to their structure and the presence of dyes and other additives. In this work, we will present the enzymatic breakdown of polyester textiles, and discuss routes to improving their efficiency.