On March 15th, the MIDWOR-LIFE project team, coordinated by AEI Tèxtils – the technical textile cluster of Catalonia- and Euratex co-organized a workshop at the Casa de la Seda in Barcelona, as part of its wider an overall strategy towards the replacement of harmful chemicals in textile industry.
The workshop gathered participants from the chemical industry, textile associations, testing laboratories and research institutes. The aims of the workshop were twofold: to present the latest MIDWOR results assessing safer alternatives to durable water and oil repellants (DWORs) such as PFOA and PFOS in textile industry and to launch a first discussion on the matter by bringing together European experts with different competencies and perspectives.
The working day provided an opportunity for a first-hand exchange of ideas and challenges to chemical replacement in the textile sector. The experiences and needs elaborated by textile and chemical industry as well as by researchers also advised the project team on the next steps.
The idea to wisely replace DWOR with safer alternatives is both pushed by market demands and by the EU regulatory institutions. Representatives from both the textile and chemical industry addressed that perfluorinated chemistry might not be needed in outdoor equipment used by general consumers, but it is critical for technical and protective textile to fulfill international and EU standards and ensure a high level of protection. Some participants questioned whether stringent standards are really necessary in all cases and whether there is a possibility for an update according to the latest developments. Other views noted time-consuming and consensus-based process are used modify standards. Researchers observed as the use of fluorocarbon based products for oil repellency should be narrowed to critical uses and that finishing product selection should be done based on the final application. By doing so, it would be possible to mitigate negative environmental and health impacts arising from the unnecessary use of fluorocarbons while still maintaining the application for critical uses essential for workers’ protection.
In conclusion, the textile industry acknowledges that while full PFOA replacement needs to take place, as required by the recent entry in Annex XVII under REACH (footnote), a derogation period has been granted and shall be used wisely to explore all options of safer alternatives. Such task cannot be the responsibility of the textile industry only, which is dominated by SMEs, but should be a joint effort with other stakeholders providing capacity and supported by private and public funds; research and innovation boosted by initiative like the MIDWOR project play a crucial role in developing sustainable solutions for the textile industry to substitute harmful chemicals.
Follow up actions discussed during the works will focus on: keep participants updated about the progress of MIDWOR project; organize new meetings in different European countries to further explore the feasibility of DWOR alternatives in different textile applications, consider collaborations among participants to support replacements; explore funding opportunities.