4 May 2017 / Alternatives assessment & substitution, Germany, PFCs, Retail, Textiles & apparel
German retailer Aldi says it has eliminated the use of per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) from its supply chain. The substances are used in water and oil-repellent finishing agents for textiles.
According to its recently released ‘Detox Commitment Progress Report 2016’, the company has stipulated alternative finishing agents in supplier contracts since 31 December 2016.
An Aldi spokesperson told Chemical Watch that textiles and footwear have been produced with the “ecological and sustainable technologies” Bionic-Finish Eco and Teflon EcoElite in Germany and Austria since 2015. This will now be extended to all other Aldi stores.
Last year, the retailer carried out a project to find substitutes for PFCs and trialled a finishing agent for textiles consisting of plant-based materials. A case study was published on the substitution support portal Subsport.
Aldi says textiles finished with Teflon EcoElite have water-repellent characteristics nearly identical to those treated with conventional finishing agents. But in terms of oil and stain-repellent properties, it says “no comparable substitutes have been achievable and additional work is still required throughout the industry to find a viable alternative.”
Figures in the company’s report reveal that in 2016, 78% of its production facilities contained no PFCs in wastewater or sludge testing results. According to Greenpeace, the results from other retailers in Germany were:
- Kaufland – 86%;
- Lidl – 93%;
- Rewe – 75%; and
- Tchibo – 68%.
Since 2015, Aldi has published its manufacturing restricted substances list (MRSL) and restricted substances list (RSL) on its websites. These specify the permissible threshold values for hazardous chemicals in wastewater and sludge discharged from production facilities, and in finished or semi-finished products.
Aldi also implemented a chemical input policy in 2016, which requires production facilities to maintain a chemical inventory and safety data sheet (SDS). This fulfils the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) MRSL requirements for all chemicals used.
The retailer monitors chemical requirements by checking the chemical inventory and says it plans to work more closely with suppliers on this topic in future.
In 2015, the chain signed up to the Greenpeace Detox programme, which aims to eliminate 11 chemicals of concern from the textiles and apparel industry by 2020.
Greenpeace’s Alexandra Perschau says Aldi’s ‘detox’ progress is “on track”. She welcomed the company’s initiative to submit the Teflon EcoElite substitution case to Subsport and use a fluorine-free product, but said that the exact formulation was not known.
A Greenpeace chemist has requested more transparency from Teflon manufacturer Chemours in order to carry out an assessment of the product, Ms Perschau says.
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