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Washing clothes, particularly those containing synthetic fibres, is a major source of environmental pollution. We take a look at the issue and suggest some simple steps you can take to reduce it... There is a certain irony in the fact that washing our clothes causes pollution. But every time we do the laundry, hundreds of thousands of tiny fibres - known as microfibres - are washed off our clothes, down the drain and into the environment. As many as 700,000 microfibres can be released from a single load of laundry. In the UK alone it’s estimated that at least 9 trillion microfibres are released into the waste water system every week. A significant number of these pass through water treatment facilities and flow freely into rivers and oceans - where they become marine pollution that can be ingested by all kinds of creatures, and enter our food chain and water supplies. Microfibres and Microplastics All our clothes shed fibres when they are washed, regardless of the material they are made from. This will come as no surprise to anyone who owns a tumble dryer. The ‘fluff’ that gets caught in the dryer filter is the same material – clothing fibres – that break off in the wash. A significant proportion of these are microplastics - shed from garments which are made from synthetic materials like nylon and polyester. Good examples of clothing manufactured from man-made fibres include high performance sports and outdoor garments, as well as any item with 'stretch'.  These synthetic microfibres are sometimes referred to as microplastic fibres (or microplastic fibers in the US!) and collectively they are the single biggest source of primary microplastics entering our oceans every year. Globally, it amounts to about 500,000 tonnes per annum - this is equivalent to every single person on the planet throwing 15 plastic shopping bags directly into the sea, every year. A Growing Problem In many households around the world, washing machines have become essential items. There are something like 800 million in use around the world today and an average household will use their machine about four times a week. That’s a lot of laundry releasing a lot of microfibres and, as the global population increases, more washing machines in more households will mean more microfibres are released into the environment every day - until something is done to stop it. Stopping the Flow A permanent solution will require action at many levels and include: Producing clothes and textiles that don’t shed as many microfibres Buying fewer clothes and washing them less often Developing better wastewater management systems Another obvious place for attention is our washing machines. A very significant proportion of the microfibres released during laundry cycles could be prevented from entering the environment by simply re-engineering washing machines to include filtration technology to prevent microfibre release. But today, there are no washing machines on sale that have this technology. We believe there should be. So do others. France recently passed laws that require microplastic filters in all new washing machines by 2025. But until filtration technology is standard in all new washing machines, we will continue to pollute the environment every time we do the laundry. Fortunately, there are some simple, practical steps you can take to mitigate the issue until you are able to purchase a new machine incorporating effective filtration technology... Keep Clothes for Longer New clothes are great. The first time we wear them they look and feel amazing. Sadly, that look and feel can quickly fade as a result of washing. But while they may look great, new clothes also release significantly more microfibres than older garments when they are washed. At Xeros, our own data shows that a new garment may shed as many as 8 times more microfibres than the same garment after 5 washes. After that, microfibre release stabilises at a much lower level. So, buying fewer new clothes and keeping the ones we have for longer can significantly reduce microfibre release during washing. Wash Less Often There is lot of debate around how often you need to wash different garments for hygiene purposes, and how often you should wash them to get them clean. The CEO of the denim company Levi made headlines recently by saying he rarely washes his jeans and denim aficionados actually argue you should never wash them. The chances are we all wash garments far more frequently that we need to. And if each wash produces 700,000 microfibres, it stands to reason that fewer wash cycles will reduce the number of microfibres released to the environment. Turn off the Tap! One major factor affecting microfibre release is water. The more water that is used during a wash cycle, the more microfibres are released. Studies have shown that by reducing the volume of water used during washing cycles, the number of microfibres released from garments can be reduced significantly. This simple step can reduce microfibre release by as much as 30%. But be aware that some wash cycles which may sound like they could help – like delicate cycles – can actually make matters worse. That’s because they use more water and, as a result, more microfibres are shed. Line dry or Tumble dry If you can, you should probably line dry clothes rather than tumble dry them. Our data shows that while the lint filter in a tumble dryer can capture shed fibres, the process of tumbling could lead to a higher rate of shedding as the strength of the fibres may be reduced. Although, from an environmental perspective, by far the biggest advantage of line drying is saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Stop buying Synthetics? One suggestion that many support is to stop buying synthetic garments and only buy clothes made using natural fibres. But ALL fibres shed microfibres, regardless of whether they are cotton or nylon. For a long time researchers felt that natural microfibres didn’t matter because they would degrade in the environment - something synthetics don’t do. But researchers are now questioning whether this is true... Scientists are finding that natural fibres can persist in the environment for a very long time, due to chemical treatments applied during manufacture. Many of the chemicals they are treated with can also be toxic to wildlife. Additionally, ALL microfibres can attract harmful pollutants which are already present in the environment. On that basis, it makes no sense to favour natural over synthetic garments – plus, the land, water and fertiliser used to grow cotton means it is far from a sustainable choice. Lobby for Washing Machine Filters Effective in-machine filtration can make a significant difference to the sustainability of our laundry. To date, only one manufacturer has committed to installing filtration in new washing machines, but these machines are not yet available to buy. Environmental charities are lobbying for laws to be changed so ALL new domestic washing machines have filtration technology. In the UK, the Marine Conservation Society is campaigning for legislation to mandate filtration in washing machines. Supporting their campaign and spreading the word would be a great thing to do. If you’re in the process of choosing or buying a new washing machine, ask the retailer why none of the models they sell have filters fitted as standard (despite all of the models they stock having seemingly glowing environmental ratings) or even better, ask the manufacturer directly. While you're at it, why not contact your MP to ask what they are doing about this issue? Solutions built into the machine are best Recent studies by the University of Plymouth tested the effectiveness of various devices at preventing microfibre release from laundry. The results showed that the best washing machine filter, XFiltra (an in-machine filter designed to be installed by manufacturers in new washing machines), can catch almost 80% of all microfibres, Today, several companies sell filters that you can buy to plumb into your current washing machine waste pipes - assuming you have the space outside the machine to mount the equipment and the technical know-how to install it (or a good plumber on call), as well as the ability to afford them.  However, Plymouth’s peer-reviewed scientific study showed that these devices, which are not integral to the machine, caught as little as a quarter of the microfibres. The same study also looked at how effective laundry bags and balls could be in preventing microfibre release. The best example prevented just over half of microfibre release and the worst little more than 20%. But even when these products have done their job, how do you collect and dispose of the microfibres they catch? The chances are, many people will simply run them under a tap – entirely defeating the object and flushing the microfibers straight down the drain. They can also reduce machine capacity and wash performance, leaving your clothes not washed to the same standard as you normally expect, and they are only designed for use with synthetic garments. Keep it Simple Buying products like external filters and laundry bags help consumers take small, positive steps towards limiting the microfibre pollution released from their laundry. Yet in actual fact, simple steps like washing less often and using low-water cycles will probably have a far greater impact. Other ideas, like getting clothes manufacturers to perform pre-sale, filtered washing of new garments to remove the initial high level of microfibre loss, could dramatically reduce the overall release of microfibres from household laundry. Garment manufacturers already perform washing cycles before finished clothes are sold to consumers, so simply need to introduce filtration technology into their equipment. But the quickest, and cheapest step to minimise microfibre pollution from household laundry will be for all washing machines to be fitted with filtration technology as standard. France has taken a first step to making this happen with sweeping environmental legislation. If washing machine manufacturers don’t now take a lead on this, it’s likely other Governments will soon follow France’s example and force the issue. A recent statement from the UK’s environment secretary sums it up: ...manufacturers should harness the latest technology to protect our marine environment and we are keeping the compulsory fitting of microplastic filters under close review.   [Sustainability, Filtration, Blog]

How to stop the microplastics in your clothes polluting the ocean

Washing clothes, particularly those containing synthetic fibres, is a major source of environmental...
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Xeros process makes blue jeans greener Denim is one of the world’s most popular fabrics and with more than one billion pairs of jeans produced ever year, they’re one of our favourite garments. But our love of denim is putting enormous pressure on the environment consuming vast quantities of water, chemicals, energy and, for those who prefer a stonewashed look, pumice stone. The world’s biggest denim manufacturers use hundreds of tonnes of pumice every month, most of which will only last for two or three process cycles before it requires disposal, often to landfill. READ HOW XEROS IMPROVES THE SUSTAINABILITY & ECONOMICS OF DENIM FINISHING New technologies, including those developed by Xeros are emerging to address resource consumption and lessen the environmental impact of our jeans. Mark Nichols, CEO of Xeros says: "Improving the sustainability of the clothes we wear is no longer an option; it is an imperative. Without major changes in the way denim garments are made, the pressure on our environment will simply become intolerable." The application of Xeros’ products to denim finishing significantly reduces consumption of water, chemistry and energy and replaces pumice stone completely. Mark Nichols continues: “We understand that the industry is highly competitive and consumers are reluctant to pay more for sustainability. We have designed our products with industry leaders to help them achieve their objectives to improve sustainability without compromising on either cost or quality.” This week Xeros, together with Ramsons Garment Finishing Equipments Ltd will be showcasing our denim finishing solutions to major garment manufacturers in India at Garment Technology Expo and again in February at the Dhaka International Textile and Garment Machinery Exhibition. For more information please contact us at: enquiries@xerostech.com [Sustainability, Apparel, Xeros Technologies, Blog, Publications]

Brochure | Improving Sustainability in Denim Finishing

Xeros process makes blue jeans greener Denim is one of the world’s most popular fabrics and with...
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New paper presents detailed analysis of how XFiltra™ can help prevent microfibres ending up in the world’s oceans Every year more than half a million tons of microfibres are released into the world's oceans from the simple act of washing our clothes. For the last three years Xeros has dedicated itself to preventing this by developing a cost-effective and highly efficient filtration system designed to be an integral part of any washing machine. Today, Xeros is publishing a paper on its work offering a summary of the issue and extent of microfibre pollution, plus a detailed assessment of XFiltra including the results of our in-house testing data. It’s now well known that washing our clothes generates tiny plastic fibres that end up in our rivers and oceans. It’s also well known that these fragments are present in our food and water supplies. With XFiltra, we have developed an effective and highly efficient way of preventing this from happening. We have chosen to take the wraps off XFiltra to be open and transparent about our solution. Today, not a single washing machine is manufactured with effective microfibre filtration. I hope that this paper will help convince manufacturers, retailers, brands, politicians and consumers of the need for change. Mark Nichols, CEO of Xeros Click this link to access a copy of Addressing Microplastic Pollution From Laundry [Sustainability, News, Xeros Technologies, Filtration, Blog, Publications]

Whitepaper | Tackling Microplastic Pollution From Laundry

New paper presents detailed analysis of how XFiltra™ can help prevent microfibres ending up in the...
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Over 5 years Xeros has saved 887,275,729 litres of water To mark World Water Day 2019, we have calculated how much water our XOrb™ technology has saved our commercial laundry customers. During the last five years, our near-waterless washing machines, which reduce water use by up to 80 per cent and are certified an Environmentally Preferable Product, have saved just over 887.2 MILLION litres of water – enough to keep the taps running for a year in 5,377 UK households or to power 148 million toilet flushes. A rapidly growing, increasingly urbanised population is causing extreme water-stress in many parts of the world. Globally, more than 844 million people do not have access to clean water and by 2050 one in four people will be affected by recurring water shortages. Even the UK could face water shortages within 25 years. So, it is more important than ever that we work to divert water away from industry and processes to where it is needed most, people. We are committed to creating a more sustainable planet and to protect and conserve one of our most precious resources – water. Read more about our core purpose and how we’re helping our commercial laundry customers save water.   [Sustainability, Cleaning, Xeros Technologies, Blog]

Xeros saves over 850 million litres of water

Over 5 years Xeros has saved 887,275,729 litres of water To mark World Water Day 2019, we have...
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Xeros Technology Group plc is calling on UK politicians to consider measures to lessen the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Xeros Technology Group plc is calling on UK politicians to consider implementing measures to lessen the environmental impact of the fashion industry. In a written submission to the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, which is examining the resource use and water footprint of clothing and how levels of pollution can be reduced, Xeros is calling on MPs to consider how the company’s innovative technology could be used to support measures across the industry to lessen pollution and water consumption. Xeros is asking politicians to consider whether filters should be fitted to all new domestic washing machines, sold in the UK, to stem the flow of plastic microfibre pollution into the world’s rivers and oceans. The company also asks whether the environmental labelling used by manufacturers and retailers could be amended to include information about filtration and microfibre pollution to help consumers make better choices. Xeros has also presented MPs with evidence about how its technology can be used to significantly reduce the amount of water (energy and chemicals) used by textile manufacturers during garment production, and asked MPs to consider whether garment labelling could be amended to include information about water consumption, empowering consumers to make more informed choices. Xeros Technology Group’s written submission can be found here Full details and background to the UK Parliament Inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry can be found here [Sustainability, Xeros Technologies, Blog]

Xeros calls for action to lessen the environmental impact of clothing and laundry

Xeros Technology Group plc is calling on UK politicians to consider measures to lessen the...
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There is wide-spread public support to tackle the issue of plastic microfiber pollution in the world’s rivers and oceans, by fitting domestic washing machines with microfiber filters There is wide-spread public support to tackle the issue of plastic microfiber pollution in the world’s rivers and oceans, by fitting domestic washing machines with microfiber filters, according to a study commissioned by Xeros Technology Group, which specialises in making water-intensive industries more sustainable. Washing clothes containing synthetic fibres such as acrylic or polyester is now the single biggest source of microplastic pollution entering our oceans every year. Every time we wash clothes containing synthetic fibres, as many as 700,000 microscopic pieces, known as microfibers, come off and are released into the environment. Recent campaigns about microfiber pollution have focused on the fashion and textile industries, challenging them to address the issue by changing their sourcing and production processes. But a new study of more than 1,100 people in the UK by the global intelligence platform Streetbees, which was commissioned by Xeros, suggests that many people would prefer a different approach. When people were asked to say which potential solutions to microfiber pollution they would support, more people opted for fitting microfiber filters to new washing machines (82 per cent) than limiting the use of microfibers in clothing or avoiding buying clothes containing them. The survey also indicates that the majority want to see strong political direction on the issue, with 61 per cent of respondents ‘strongly agreeing’ and 29 per cent ‘slightly agreeing’ that governments should legislate to make microfiber filters mandatory in all new washing machines. Mark Nichols, Chief Executive Officer of Xeros Technology Group said: “Microfibers that come off our clothes are doing as much damage to the marine environment as plastic bags and discarded fishing gear. And every time we do a load of washing at home we are all unwittingly adding to microfiber pollution in the oceans. “Around the world, innovative companies are looking at possible solutions to microfiber pollution. Last year we made a commitment as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to develop a microfiber filtration system for domestic washing machines. Having done so and seen what is achievable, I believe that fitting filtration to all new washing machines would go a long way to addressing this urgent issue.” The survey by Streetbees also highlights how just how concerned people have become about plastic pollution, with more people identifying it as a serious and urgent environmental issue (92 per cent) ahead of other issues such as global warming, deforestation and over fishing. However, the study also suggests a need for more public education on how microfibers are contributing to the problem because more than half of respondents (58 per cent) did not know that washing clothes containing synthetic fibres resulted in plastic microfibers being released into the environment. And only a third of respondents (31 per cent) identified microfibers as a major source of plastic pollution in the oceans, far fewer than those identifying rubbish such as plastic bottles, straws and discarded fishing gear. The survey also found low levels of knowledge of the impact microfibers are having on humans with: 53 per cent not knowing that microfibers are entering the food chain after being ingested by plankton, and 57 per cent not aware of studies showing microfibers present in drinking water Mark Nichols continues: “With so many people concerned about the impact of microfiber pollution, and our survey indicating overwhelming public support for fitting microfiber filters to new washing machines as a potential solution, it’s imperative for politicians and industry to act now to help consumers make positive choices to tackle this unseen plastic pollution.” An infographic providing more information on XFiltra™ can be found here A video about microfibers pollution and washing machine filtration can be found here [1] https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2017-002.pdf [2] https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/news/washing-clothes-releases-thousands-of-microplastic-particles-into-environment-study-shows [News, Xeros Technologies, Blog]

New study suggests broad public support for microfiber filters to be fitted to domestic washing machines

There is wide-spread public support to tackle the issue of plastic microfiber pollution in the...
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Anyone who is yet to wake up to the issue of plastic polluting our rivers and seas must have their head in the sand. Programmes such as Blue Planet and Drowning in Plastic have done a brilliant job of showing us the terrible damage being wrought on the environment by discarded plastic. Heartrending images of whales, seals, and dolphins caught in discarded fishing gear, or sea birds dying after eating plastic bottle tops and cigarette lighters, are enough to make us all want to do something to stop it. And this is just the plastic we can see. Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic flows freely into the world’s marine environments unseen. Many of us are familiar with microplastics and the damage they can cause. But the biggest source of microplastic pollution is our clothes: tiny pieces of synthetic fibres called microfibers. Article first published in City A.M 11.10.18 http://www.cityam.com/265309/laundry-biggest-source-microplastic-pollution-heres-we Clothing companies like Patagonia and researchers at the University of Plymouth have shown how – every time we wash clothes containing synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester and acrylic – microscopic fibres break off and are released into the environment. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of fibres from each wash. Simply by doing our laundry, we are all, unwittingly, adding to the issue of plastic pollution. But just because we can’t see microfibers, doesn’t mean we can ignore them. Scientists have shown microfibers are already entering the food chain, ingested by plankton, and then eaten by fish and shellfish before finding their way to supermarket shelves. Recent campaigns about microfiber pollution have tended to focus attention on the fashion industry, urging manufacturers to switch to more sustainable textiles. This is part of the solution. But this issue is too serious for just one industry to solve. We must work together to find the most effective long-term solutions. Perhaps one of the easiest and most effective answers could be finding a way to stop microfibers getting from our washing machines into the sea. But most water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out such small fibres, and technology enabling them to do would be prohibitively expensive. Innovative companies are looking at how you can contain microfibers in your washing machine by putting all your clothes in a bag before they go in the wash. Others have designed items that go in the machine with the clothes to try and catch the microfibers as they come off. engineers at Xeros have developed a device that filters all the dirty water from the machine before it does down the drain, capturing more than 99 per cent of microfibers from your wash. Whatever the solution is to microfiber pollution, it needs to be as simple and cost-effective as possible for consumers. I believe that fitting filtration to all new washing machines will help immensely. Meanwhile, politicians must also address the environmental labelling of all new white-goods to make it fit-for-purpose. Consumers also need to be empowered to make informed choices about the full environmental impact of the goods that they buy. This government has shown its willingness to tackle plastic pollution. I applaud it for tackling issues, such single-use plastics and banning microbeads in cosmetics. But it urgently needs to address microfiber pollution from laundry, and help us all find a simple and effective solution to this critical issue. Cleaning up the world we share, and protecting it for future generations, is everyone’s responsibility. Article first published in City A.M 11.10.18 http://www.cityam.com/265309/laundry-biggest-source-microplastic-pollution-heres-we [News, Blog]

Laundry is the biggest source of microplastic pollution – here's how we tackle the issue

Anyone who is yet to wake up to the issue of plastic polluting our rivers and seas must have their...
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As water shortages become more common around the world, the laundry industry is under pressure to reduce consumption of this precious resource and generally minimise its environmental impact. As water shortages become more common around the world, the laundry industry is under pressure to reduce consumption of this precious resource and generally minimise its environmental impact. When Johannesburg native Charl de Beer moved back to South Africa, he started a company aiming to rent out freshly laundered linens to the 18,000 Airbnb hosts in Cape Town. But then Cape Town experienced a water shortage crisis that threatened his business - his water costs quadrupled in a year. "If you're a business, that's catastrophic," he says. Fortunately for him he came across a new technology - polymer beads to replace water - that could apparently reduce the amount of water laundry uses by up to 80%. British tech firm Xeros had started selling these specially designed washing machines, under the name Hydrofinity, on the back of scientific research from the UK's University of Leeds. Nylon polymers "have an inherent polarity that attracts stains" and can replace most water in a laundry cycle, says Stephen Burkinshaw, chair of textile chemistry at the university. After you put in your laundry, the drum adds about 23,000 small recyclable polymer spheres - which the company calls XOrbs - with a total weight around 6kg, plus a cup of water and detergent. The spheres absorb the stains, then get collected through the drum, and afterwards are stored behind it to be reused next time. The household machine uses 50% less water than a conventional washing machine, while the commercial version, which uses 70,000 spheres weighing 20kg, uses 80% less. Mr de Beer offered to distribute their washing machines in South Africa, just so he could buy them himself. A single industrial-sized 25kg machine running 14 cycles a day can save two million litres of water each year, he says. And "in Cape Town, that saves 177,500 rand (£9,641; $12,547)". Washing machine makers can integrate the technology "very, very simply" into their products, says Mark Nichols, chief executive of Xeros Technology Group. Xeros is currently working on licensing its technology to seven global washing machine makers, Mr Nichols says, and its machines are being adopted by hotels in dry countries such as the United Arab Emirates. Water intensive sectors - think hotels, hospitals, caterers that do a lot of laundry - have been keen to cut their consumption for many years. For example, California-based Mission Linen Supply, a uniforms and linen services company, says it saved 141 million gallons of water in 2017, earning it a "Water Hero" award from the drought-affected City of Santa Barbara. During a busy week in the summer months the business can process up to 77,000kg of uniforms, towels and linens, the company says, making water saving a prime business, as well as environmental, objective. Over the years it has refined a system for recycling and reusing rinse water, reducing consumption to roughly half that of a typical domestic washing machine. The company also treats the waste water before sending it back into the city supply. Meanwhile, other companies are developing ways to clean clothes with hardly any water at all. Consumer goods giant Unilever, for example, has produced a spray called Day2 that works like dry shampoo, designed to refresh those clothes that lie around on the floor on on the back of a chair but aren't really that dirty at all. It won't work for muddy socks, says Clare Dolan, Unilever's chief executive for Day2 and global water innovation director, but for shirts, say, "it eats odours, leaves fibres soft, smooths out the wrinkles, and freshen clothes to wear again, without washing them". One bottle of the spray can save 60 litres of water, she says. And Swiss start-up Dolfi has come up with a device that cleans delicate fabrics using ultrasound to agitate a small amount of water and detergent. Despite its misleading name, the dry cleaning industry also uses a lot of water - used in the form of steam - not to mention potential carcinogens like the solvent perchloroethylene, or perc for short. But in the last five years, technological improvements have meant water and biodegradable detergents and conditioners can clean "dry clean only" garments made from wool, silk, or suede, says Nick Harris, managing director of VClean Life. VClean recently launched a "wet cleaning" factory in Watford, Hertfordshire, that "weighs clothes and works out exactly how much water is necessary", says Mr Harris. And the boiler water used to make steam is recycled. Dry cleaning is more efficient with larger loads, says Mr Harris, so it will be cheaper for small family-owned dry cleaners to send garments to a large factory like his than to clean them themselves. VClean plans to launch 24-hour "drop off and collect" vending machines throughout London. Back in Cape Town, tourists are becoming "more and more discerning" about whether places they visit "are good stewards of the environment," says Mr de Beer. So hotels and restaurants that don't find new ways to conserve water in areas that are running dry may find their businesses being recycled. This story was first published on BBC News 5.10.18 - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45711230 [Case Studies, Xeros Technologies, Blog]

Why the laundry industry is in a spin to save water

As water shortages become more common around the world, the laundry industry is under pressure to...
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