Labeling requirements are among the most frequently deployed regulations in the arena of retail products. They are seen just about everywhere, and articles of clothing are no exception, with the included instructions varying from care and upkeep requirements to descriptions of garments' composition.
Recently, lawmakers in California submitted a bill proposing to amend existing labeling requirements for clothing manufacturers to include a designation of polyester content up to a certain amount. Designers would do well to monitor the progress of this potential legislation. Also, they should consider adopting new label software capable of creating appropriately phrased labels at an efficient pace.
Proposed law stems from environmental concerns
According to the Advertising Specialty Institute, the piece of proposed legislation – AB-2379 – pertains to articles of clothing that are made from at least 50 percent polyester. If the bill makes it through the California State Assembly and State Senate, any garment of any kind that contains 50 percent polyester or more will need to include a special warning – one placed in a conspicuous location that would be easy for garment wearers to read.
Any garment with more than 50% polyester can shed 1,900 microfibers each time it is washed."
The reason why this law has come into consideration centers around concerns regarding the various synthetic microfibers that slough away from polyester-based garments when put through the rigors of conventional machine washing and drying cycles. Each of them is only about 5 millimeters in length apiece, but in mass quantities, when they pass through the water systems of people's homes and eventually make their way to the sea, it leads to a significant degree of marine pollution. Any garment made of these synthetic fabrics to any significant degree is capable of releasing as many as 1,900 individual microfibers during each wash cycle.
In fact, according to the results of a study conducted at the University of California Santa Barbara and reported on by the Guardian, the typical synthetic fleece jacket releases 1.7 grams' worth of microfiber each time that it is washed. All told, this regular occurrence – and other sources of shed microfibers – accounts for up to 85 percent of the pollution found along the shorelines of California beaches.
Los Angeles-based California legislator Richard Bloom proposed the bill in State Assembly sessions and wants it to balance certain priorities: namely, discouraging overuse of synthetic fibers and informing consumers without placing excessive restrictions on garment businesses.
"Some of the [bill's] advocates think we should be moving toward more draconian solutions, like banning synthetic clothing. Those would have greater consequences that don't make sense," Bloom said, according to ASI. "We need to become more aware, continue the research and take reasonable steps to reduce the amount of microfibers in our aquifers and go where the research takes us."
Other plastic products could be affected by the law
Per the text of AB-2379, the proposed law, if successfully passed, would go into effect January 1, 2020. No manufacturer of clothing or tailor could legally sell any garment containing 50 percent polyester or more if it was not labeled with accurate descriptions of its composition. Specific penalties resulting from such violations were not detailed in the legislative document, but could ostensibly be in line with those devised as part of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, by which AB-2379 was inspired: Per that law, violators can be fined as much as $2,500 per day every day during which they are actively considered to be breaking the statute and its terms.
AB-2379 will not solely pertain to the use of synthetic matter in clothing and its accurate labeling, but also the description of various consumer packaged goods as "compostable" or "biodegradable." If these terms are used in the packaging or advertising materials of any such item that is primarily made from plastic – and the plastic in question does not meet ASTM standards for recycling and marine degradability – any company doing so will be in violation of California law.