TenCate: Protective clothing regulations and ...
TenCate

Protective clothing regulations and sustainability?

(Source: TenCate)
(Source: TenCate)

Across the European Union (EU), personal protective equipment (PPE) norms (or regulations) exist to regulate the level of risk to workers in different categories of work. These ratings then tell a protective clothing supplier such as TenCate Protective Fabrics what risk factors the garment protects against, e.g. heat, flame, and chemical splash. They can also tell the supplier how well their garments perform when exposed to particular risk factors in work environments.
However, the current EU norms do not necessarily incorporate sustainable practices. To be truly sustainable, industry needs to be able to keep fabrics moving in circularity. Mono-blend fabrics - which are made up entirely of one fiber - can be recycled. However, there are currently no mono-fabrics that are both flame-resistant and comfortable at the same time. At present, the fabrics are classified as multi-norm blended fabrics which are difficult to recycle, as the technology does not (yet) exist to split the fibers into their original state. Another example is color - often yellow or orange. To maintain their color, certain chemicals have to be used which can be harmful to the environment, and require large amounts of water and energy, and create vast amounts of effluent.
TenCate Protective Fabrics, Nijverdal/Netherlands, is striving to develop a working practice where the fabrics not only keep their wearers safe but produce the lowest possible ecological footprint. However, the requirement to meet current EU norms means that working 100% sustainably would mean compromising on the protective qualities of the fabrics.
Through discussion between EU governing bodies and protective clothing manufacturers, new, practical solutions need to be found that allow companies to maintain safety norms but also minimize impact on the environment.

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