25 May 2018
State-Level Efforts to Expand Labelling Requirements for Microfibre Clothing Intensify
State-level efforts to require clothing containing plastic microfibres to include a label with language warning about the environmental impact of such fibres have seemingly intensified in recent weeks. The most notable recent development on this front is the introduction of legislation in the New York State Assembly that would, as currently drafted, require beginning on 1 January 2020 a conspicuous care label on clothing made from fabric composed of more than 50 percent synthetic material.
The label would have to inform consumers that the garment sheds plastic microfibres when washed, contributing to marine plastic pollution. For clothing for which machine washing or hand washing is recommended, the statement “Hand washing recommended to reduce shedding” would also have to be included. For clothing for which dry cleaning is required, the statement “Dry clean only” would also be required.
The term “clothing” is defined in the bill as an article of apparel intended to be worn by a person, except for hats and shoes. The term “plastic microfibre” is defined as a small synthetic particle that is fibrous in shape, less than five millimetres in length, and is released into water through the regular washing of textiles made from synthetic material. The required care label could be in the form of a sticker, hang tag or any other label type.
The text of a similar bill currently under consideration in California has been amended a number of times but that legislation has not yet been put up for a vote. Like the New York bill, the most recent version of the California legislation would require clothing made from fabric that is composed of more than 50 percent synthetic material to bear a conspicuous label that is visible to the consumer at the point of sale, in the form of a sticker, hang tag or any other label type, with specified information, including a statement that the garment sheds plastic microfibres when washed. The bill would require new clothing with that material composition, if a care label is required pursuant to federal law, to include additional information on the care label, including that same statement. Additionally, the legislation would prohibit a person from selling or offering for sale new clothing made from fabric that is composed of more than 50 percent synthetic material that does not bear those labels. These requirements would enter into force on 1 January 2020.
Meanwhile, Connecticut recently approved legislation establishing a working group of representatives of the apparel industry and the environmental community for the purpose of developing a consumer awareness and education programme that consists, in part, of a clothing labelling component designed to readily alert consumers of the presence of synthetic microfibres in an article of clothing prior to the purchase of such clothing. The working group would be required to submit its findings and recommendations to the Connecticut General Assembly’s Environment Committee by 1 January 2019.