Tracking systems for hazardous chemicals in the textile industry supply chain An interview study of Swedish clothing companies regarding PFAS

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Examensarbete för masterexamen
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2021
Författare
Bylund, Anna
Andersson, Emma
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The textile industry includes many actors which has resulted in a problem with transparency regarding hazardous substances through the whole supply chain. It is also difficult to know if the information is correct since there is a lack of regulatory authorities. A tracking system is defined in this thesis as a system that is used by the whole industry and that controls the product from the first step in the supply chain. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances are a group of hazardous chemicals that are used as water- and soil repellents in the textile industry, which have been found to be harmful to both humans and nature. The aim of this thesis is to analyze how clothing companies work with tracking systems to ensure that their products do not contain any hazardous substances. The tracking systems included in the analysis are Digital Product Passport and Radio Frequency Identification. These two tracking systems were chosen based on a literature study where these systems theoretically showed good potential to be implemented in the textile industry. Digital Product Passport is also discussed on the EU level in the Sustainable Products Initiative. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances are included as examples of hazardous chemicals which should be covered by tracing systems. Semi- structured interviews were conducted with nine Swedish clothing companies and four organizations. The results indicate that there is a large variation in how companies track chemicals in their products. Most of the companies are using systems they have created themselves, such as regulated substances lists, and laboratory tests of the final product. Frequent communication with suppliers and manufacturers as well as certification systems were other important elements in companies’ tracking systems. The main differences between these systems are that some are controlled by a third party while others are not. The advantage of the systems is that companies are mapping and testing materials and components in the products. However, one disadvantage is that companies are using different systems and that regulatory authorities are not involved. These systems can be effective for individual companies as they believe they have control. But there are still challenges related to the lack of standardization which makes it difficult to compare products and this results in decreased credibility. Based on the results, the recommendation is to implement regulation of all components in the product and not only the final product. The results indicate that it is theoretically possible to use Digital Product Passport as a tracking system to track the chemical content through the supply chain. However, there are still challenges related to the practical implementation of this tracking systems. Therefore, the recommendation based on this study is to implement a regulation on the EU level which would affect all companies within the EU as well as manufacturers outside the EU.
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Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, Digital Product Passport, Textile industry, Radio Frequency Identification
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