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OSLO – Norwegian clothing retailers will have to share levels of microplastic pollution their synthetic clothing produces each year, when asked, after the authorities upheld a test case. The case hinged on local laws which give all citizens the right to information about how the environment is affected by private companies operating in Norway. Two clothing companies were told by the Environmental Complaints Board they must be ready to share both the amount of synthetic clothing they produce annually and estimates of microplastic emissions from this clothing.

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The case was brought about by Axel Klanderud, a private citizen who demanded to know how much microplastic emissions companies are responsible for – and the Environmental Complaints Board has determined that he is entitled to an answer.

Klanderud contacted four companies, these being clothing companies Varner Group and Sport Holding – owner of Anton Sport and Intersport – and tire companies Michelin and Pirelli.

He asked how many products they produce and sell that contain plastic, and how much microplastic emissions they contribute to in Norway.

Varner, which owns the clothing chains Bik Bok, Carlings, Cubus, Dressmann, Junkyard, Volt and Levi’s Store, said they produced around three million garments made with synthetic fibres in 2020. However, they claimed it was impossible to say what environmental impact this had in terms of microplastic pollution.

Neither Sport Holding would not even provide figures in terms of synthetic garments produced annually.

The Environmental Complaints Board said all companies must be able to provide details of synthetic garments sold as well as estimates of microplastics emissions. It pointed to research reports which have made estimates previously around microplastic emissions.

Once again, Norway appears to be leading the way when it comes to the enforcement of environmental legislation relating to fashion. The pertinent point here refers to emissions levels. The fashion industry generally has hidden behind the claim that it cannot yet factor in microplastic emissions into its environmental impact as no standard measurement is available. However, the Norwegian authorities have called out this excuse for what it is and requested estimates, citing numerous research studies which also use estimates in their calculations. Again, as on the issue of Higg, the interest will come if and when other national authorities follow the stance of Norway.

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