Sportswear that do not smell bad after exercising in them is a great business idea, and such clothing items have actually been available to customers for quite a while. Although it may sound good, the truth is that these clothes are very problematic for the environment.
These so-called odour-free sportswear are treated with silver, which is known to be antibacterial and has long been widely used in various industries for this exact purpose.
But antibacterial silver is also toxic, and classified as a biocide by the European Union.
This week Svenskt Vatten – The Swedish Water & Wastewater Association – released a report on the issue of silver in sportswear, and revealed some quite concerning facts.
“Up to 90% of the silver is washed away”
After analysing sportswear treated with silver, the report shows that up to 90% of the silver is washed away from the clothing item after just ten machine washes.
“This is worrying. The silver is washed away in the wastewater and constitutes a serious threat to both the water cycle, the circular economy and the sediments-dwelling organisms in our lakes and seas”, says Anders Finnson, Senior Environmental Expert at Svenskt Vatten.
Silver in ionic form is very hazardous to bacteria and aquatic organisms and can cause particular harm to organisms living on the bottoms of lakes and oceans such as crustaceans, fry and eggs.
It is also very commonly found in our environment. A couple of years ago, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency published a summary of the most common biocides found in nature. Silver topped this list.
“Retailers must start phasing out all its silver-treated textiles”
With this newly reported leakage of silver from sportswear, the substance will continue to accumulate and cause even greater problems for the environment.
”We should always remove hazardous substances at the source, so the retailers must start phasing out all its silver-treated textiles – it’s a matter of ensuring a sustainable future”, says Anders Finnson, and concludes:
”They pose significant problems for the environment in the future, and the fact that the silver is washed out means it’s totally pointless buying this clothing”.