There’s a call to action to carpet manufacturers to not brush under the mat the issue of microplastics and like the apparel industry, join the conversation and be part of the solution.
The research: A joint report by Revolution Plastics, an interdisciplinary initiative at the University of Portsmouth and sustainability consultants SB+CO concluded that there are currently no microplastic reduction policies in the carpet industry.
- Carpets are of particular concern, as it has been estimated that they can double the number of microplastics fibres in the home. This, coupled with the fact that we spend up to 90% of our lives indoors, means there is potential for breathing in high concentrations of microplastics.
- The researchers compared 51 companies from European clothing and carpet industries to evaluate if they had microplastics policies or provided information to customers about the microplastics in their products.
The findings: While the clothing industry was now starting to acknowledge the problem of microplastics shedding from their products, with new initiatives targeting zero impact, the carpet industry was a different story.
- None of the 24 carpet companies reviewed had a publicly-stated position on microplastics, yet all sold carpets made containing plastic.
- Almost 86% of the manufacturing companies included have a sustainability strategy or commitments, but microplastics are not included in the strategy.
- Consumers are unaware of the health issues associated with microplastics. Retailers only offer guidelines to highlight carpet qualities.
- The report encourages manufacturers to learn the lessons of the apparel industry and start taking action.
The report recommends that carpet companies work together to standardise testing of microplastics in products (similar to that of the clothing industry that uses a washing machine test to determine the presence of microplastics).
The researchers also urged manufacturers to be more transparent to consumers about using microplastics.
The backdrop: Microplastics are used by the flooring industry and when these begin to break up indoors in a closed environment they can lift into the air as dust to be breathed in, or to later land on food and be eaten.
- Microplastics have been shown to have serious negative impacts on many animal species, including reduced growth, intestinal damage, aberrant development and reduced population growth. Recent studies have shown microplastics can enter human bodies, with plastic found in blood, liver, lungs and the placenta.
WHAT THEY SAID:
When microplastics break up small enough, they can lift into the air as dust to be breathed in, or to later land on food and be eaten. It is therefore sensible to begin taking steps to limit our exposure where possible. What we are seeing is the flooring industry making strong environmental claims on their products and the use of recycled plastics. Our report is encouraging manufacturers to learn the lessons of the apparel industry and start taking action.
— Fay Couceiro
Reader (Biogeochemistry and Environmental Pollution)
University of Portsmouth
Of the 24 carpet companies investigated, we found they are heavily promoting the shift to using recycled plastics as a more environmental and sustainable solution, but are not yet considering the impacts of microplastics. Instead, durability, cleanability and low prices are the key selling points for plastic carpets. For example one manufacturer claims – ‘this carpet is made from 100% polypropylene and bleach cleanable, offering extra durability and ensuring that you can clean your carpet with ease whilst retaining its colour’.
— Claudia Proietti
Unbelievably, no information on the possible health impacts is made available to consumers. Human health is only noted in relation to chemical usage in carpet production, and even then, only a few companies focus on the issue.
— Nigel Salter