Rayon, modal and lyocell are produced from renewable cellulosic plants such as beech trees, pine trees, and bamboo.
All three fibers are biodegradable. Specifically, Lenzing Viscose® and Lenzing Modal® are produced from sustainably harvested beech trees and Tencel® from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus grows quickly and without irrigation, pesticides, fertilizers or genetic manipulation; it can also be planted on marginal land that cannot be used for food crops. The fiber yield per acre from the trees used in the Lenzing fibers is up to ten times higher than that of cotton. Also, cotton needs up to 20 times more water.
However, there are many manufacturers of rayon. Even with the advancements that have been made over time, most rayon manufacturing processes in use today are not considered environmentally friendly. In fact, they use a range of polluting chemicals and heavy metals. On the other hand, lyocell manufacturing, and that of Tencel® in particular, is an extremely environmentally friendly process and the most friendly of these three fibers.
Since regenerated fibers do not qualify for organic certification, other recognized eco standards that review the entire process chain for growing and harvesting the trees through the manufacturing and treatment processes must be applied to these fibers. One such award that has been given to Lenzing for Tencel® is the European Eco-Label, which addresses compliance with high environmental standards for production and products.
As early as 1963, Lenzing started recycling the chemicals from pulp production after the company switched from the calcium bisulphite method to an environmentally friendly magnesium bisulphite method. The revolutionary aspect of Tencel®manufacturing is the recovery and reuse of up to 99.8 percent of the solvent and the remaining emissions are broken down in biological water treatment plants. In fact, the solvent is not acidic, does not remain in the fiber, and has been proven harmless in dermatological and toxicological tests.
Finally, we need to remember that much of the total environmental impact of textile goods comes from their care. With lyocell fabrics, there is no need for fabric softener or whitening agents, and energy and water use can be decreased due to shorter washing machine cycles. So with this knowledge and careful shopping for respected eco-friendly labels, you can buy textiles from manufactured fibers that can be considered to be green.
Joe Komodo says...
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