Apparel manufacturers and retailers are worried about a proposed state law that would require some garments made of synthetic fabric to have a warning label.

The proposed law could complicate operations in a major industry in Los Angeles County – home to more than 2,000 apparel manufacturers that employ some 61,000 workers, about two-thirds of the statewide total – and undermine an already fragile regional market.

The law would require a warning label about possible adverse environmental effects related to synthetic microfibers, which can enter the water supply and impact marine life. The label would be required on any garments that are made of 50 percent or more synthetic fibers and sold in California.

The bill was introduced in Sacramento by California State Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, as part of an effort to curb marine pollution. It specifically targets plastic microfibers shed from clothing made from synthetic fabrics.

Proponents of the bill say the measure aims to provide information to the public on what they call the threat microfibers pose to water quality and marine life.

“Right now, it’s estimated that synthetic fibers are, by count, the single largest contributor to watershed plastic pollution in developed countries and account for a significant portion of plastic waste entering the ocean,” Bloom told the Business Journal.

Opposition from certain sectors of the business community isn’t in response to the environmental concerns but to the labeling requirement, which detractors said is overly onerous.

Two groups opposed to the bill are downtown-based nonprofit California Fashion Association and downtown-based BizFed, L.A. County Business Federation a coalition of more than 170 businesses in L.A. County.

“This is beyond nonsense, it is overreach,” said Ilse Metchek, CFA’s president. “We as an industry are working on environmental issues.”

Metchek said the local apparel industry has environmental concerns on its radar, but “this bill isn’t the answer.”

Sarah Wiltfong, policy manager at BizFed, added that the bill would harm retailers.

“We believe this will have an immensely negative impact on California retailers,” Wiltfong said. “This bill has very little justification and we don’t know how much of marine pollution actually comes from clothing.”

Wiltfong said that if the bill passes, thousands of businesses that make and sell clothes in the state will be impacted by having to bear a heavy logistical burden.

“Picture distribution problems,” Metchek said. “A manufacturer sends out 50,000 units of clothing to the country. The ones in California need to be pulled out for this tag? It is impossible.”


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