Is Viscose Eco Friendly & Sustainable For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

Is Viscose Eco Friendly & Sustainable For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

You might see that a particular product, like a piece of clothing, contains viscose.

Viscose can be a broadly used term, so it makes sense that you might be unsure of what viscose is and the impact it has on the environment and it’s resources.

In this guide, we look at whether Viscose is Eco Friendly & Sustainable for use in products like clothing, fabric and textiles.

We also give examples of types of commonly used viscose.

 

Firstly, What Is Viscose?

Viscose is a type of regenerated cellulose fibre (rayon).

It is usually made from plants or wood pulp, using the viscose process/method (cellulose xanthate).

The viscose process dissolves pulp with certain chemicals or solvents (such as aqueous sodium hydroxide in the presence of carbon disulfide). This viscous solution is called viscose. The cellulose solution is used to spin the viscose rayon fiber, which may also be called viscose.

– wikipedia.org

 

Viscose is a type of rayon like lyocell or modal.

But, viscose is also different to lyocell or modal in a few small ways (although it’s very similar to modal too).

Modal for example is treated slightly differently after spinning to make the filaments stronger.

Lyocell uses a slightly different production process – it uses a different solvent to extract the cellulose from the wood: sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) is replaced by a non-toxic organic compound with the catchy name N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO for short).

– bettermeetsreality

 

Lyocell is the generic name for the fibers produced by Lenzing, which are not produced by the traditional viscose process but rather by solvent spinning.

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

Is Viscose Eco Friendly & Sustainable?

Obviously it depends on the type of viscose you are talking about.

But in general, viscose processing that doesn’t use a closed loop system to capture and re-use solvents/chemicals, or capture wastewater, isn’t as eco friendly and sustainable as it could be.

Not only is water contaminated and wasted (which can waste freshwater resources), but these chemicals and solvents can find their way into the external water and soil environments, and also impact wildlife living in these environments.

There’s probably two main factors that determine how eco friendly and sustainable a particular type of viscose is:

  • what source the cellulose comes from and how the plant it comes from is grown – for example, viscose might come from soy, bamboo, and sugar cane to name a few

Bamboo for example is quite sustainably grown, and is quite eco friendly to grow 

  • what chemicals are used for production/manufacturing, and the method and procedures involved in the manufacturing

 

An Example Of Viscose – Bamboo Viscose

Bamboo viscose is really the same thing as Bamboo rayon.

Once a bamboo stem is grown and cut, it can be processed in two main ways – mechanical processing, or chemical processing.

Mechanical processing is usually slower and more costly, so it hasn’t been used as heavily in recent times. When the bamboo is processed in this way – it is not rayon, or viscose.

Chemical processing where solvents/chemicals help extract the short bamboo fibres from the bamboo stem, is usually cheaper and quicker. When the bamboo is processed in this way, it makes a bamboo rayon viscose, and bamboo rayon is produced.

The chemical processing of bamboo, without the presence of a closed loop system, or a way of capturing waste water and chemicals and solvents used in the production process, can be damaging to the environment, and not as sustainable as mechanical processing. 

The US actually changed their labelling standards in 2010/11 so consumers knew when they were getting ‘bamboo rayon’ (which comes from bamboo viscose) as opposed to naturally grown and processed bamboo (mechanically processed bamboo).

 

How To Know If You Are Getting Eco Friendly & Sustainable Viscose

You can probably do two things:

  1. Look at the label of the product you are buying and see the fibres listed (you may even see a fibre mix such as rayon/viscose and silk)
  2. Look at the brand, and have a look on their website to see how they both grow their cellulose source (such as wood), and how their viscose processing works

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viscose

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/rayon-vs-viscose-vs-modal-vs-polyester-vs-lyocell-vs-bamboo-whats-the-difference/  

3. https://www.undershirts.co.uk/blogs/research/viscose-vs-modal-vs-lyocell 

4. https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/tag/modal/ 

Is Rayon Eco Friendly & Sustainable For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

Is Rayon Eco Friendly & Sustainable For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

Rayon is one of those types of fibres that can cause confusion amongst people.

Rayon is quite a broadly used term, so it makes sense that this is the case.

In this guide, we look at whether Rayon is Eco Friendly & Sustainable for use in products like clothing, fabric and textiles.

We also give examples of types of commonly used Rayon.

 

Firstly, What Is Rayon?

Rayon is the general name people use to describe regenerated cellulose fibres.

Regenerated fibres usually come from a natural source, such as wood, but are then manufactured/modified by humans in the production process. They are sometimes called ‘semi-synthetic’ fibres for this reason.

There are different types and variations of rayon that comes from different cellulose sources (beech wood, bamboo etc.), and are produced in different ways (with different chemicals, with different methods etc.).

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

Some Common Types Of Rayon

  • Viscose,
  • lyocell,
  • modal,
  • bamboo (assuming the bamboo is chemically processed, and not mechanically processed).

 

Is Rayon Eco Friendly & Sustainable?

Obviously it depends on the type of rayon you are talking about.

There’s probably two main factors that determine how eco friendly and sustainable a particular type of rayon is:

  • what source the cellulose comes from (how it’s grown)
  • what chemicals are used for production/manufacturing, and the method and procedures involved in the manufacturing

 

Let’s Look At Two Examples Of Rayon, & How Eco Friendly & Sustainable They Are

Two examples of rayon are:

  • lyocell (the main producer is TENCEL – and they have their own production process)
  • and, chemically processed bamboo rayon

 

Lyocell

TENCEL don’t specifically refer to their product as a rayon (from what we can see), but in a general sense it is.

TENCEL is one of the more eco friendly and sustainable fibres on the market for two main reasons:

  • they source their wood (cellulose) from sustainably grown and renewable wood sources
  • they have a closed loop process for re-using and capturing wastewater, and production chemicals (solvents) – instead of dumping them in the environment

It’s also worth noting that TENCEL makes both a Lyocell and a Modal fibre.

 

Bamboo Rayon

Bamboo as a plant and with it’s growing process is quite eco friendly and renewable.

It’s the production process that is usually questionable.

Once a bamboo stem is grown and cut, it can be processed in two main ways – mechanical processing, or chemical processing.

Mechanical processing is usually slower and more costly, so it hasn’t been used as heavily in recent times. When the bamboo is processed in this way – it is not rayon.

Chemical processing where solvents/chemicals help extract the short bamboo fibres from the bamboo stem, is usually cheaper and quicker. When the bamboo is processed in this way, it makes a bamboo rayon viscose, and bamboo rayon is produced.

The chemical processing of bamboo, without the presence of a closed loop system, or a way of capturing waste water and chemicals and solvents used in the production process, can be damaging to the environment, and not as sustainable as mechanical processing. 

The US actually changed their labelling standards so consumers knew when they were getting ‘bamboo rayon’ as opposed to naturally grown and processed bamboo.

 

How To Know If You Are Getting Eco Friendly & Sustainable Rayon

You can probably do two things:

  1. Look at the label of the product you are buying and see the fibres listed (you may even see a fibre mix such as rayon and silk)
  2. Look at the brand, and have a look on their website to see how they both grow their cellulose source (such as wood), and how it is processed

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rayon 

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/rayon-vs-viscose-vs-modal-vs-polyester-vs-lyocell-vs-bamboo-whats-the-difference/ 

3. https://goodonyou.eco/how-ethical-is-tencel/ 

4. https://www.tencel.com/sustainability 

Is Polyester Sustainable & Eco Friendly As A Fabric/Fibre?

Is Polyester Sustainable & Eco Friendly As A Fabric/Fibre?

To some people the answer to this question might be obvious.

But, we thought we’d dive in quickly and outline specifically why polyester is really not a sustainable or eco friendly fabric.

 

*NOTE: this guide focuses on the main type of polyester used in polyester fabric – the synthetic fibre, PET.

 

Summary – Is Polyester Sustainable & Eco Friendly As A Fabric?

No. Not compared to other fabrics on the market.

It is one of the least sustainable and eco friendly for a few reasons:

  • it is mainly derived from petroleum and the oil manufacturing industry is the world’s largest pollutant (and fossil fuels are not renewable). Having said that, there is recyclable polyester available now, which is made from recycled plastic bottles
  • it uses a lot of water, a lot of energy and has a high carbon footprint
  • it uses many chemicals, dyes, finishers and so on during the production process
  • polyester is not biodegradable

It’s important to note that some polyester production systems can differ from others, and polyester can be combined with a natural fibre for example (like cotton), which can change the overall impact or eco footprint of a product or piece of clothing.

More eco friendly and sustainable fibres to consider might be organic cotton, organic bamboo, hemp, TENCEL and flax/linen.

Some people make the point that polyester might need less washing, ironing and after purchase care than some natural fabrics, and has a lower eco and sustainability footprint because of this, but this is a general point and really depends on the person and fabric item in question.

 

What Is Polyester Made From?

Multiple polymers made from ethylene glycol (derived from petroleum) and terephthalic acid.

It’s essentially a type of plastic.

 

How Polyester Is Processed (Full Lifecycle)

  • Crude oil is extracted at the Extraction stage
  • At the Refinery stage, Ethane and Naphtha are made
  • At the Petrochemical stage, Ethylene Oxide, P-xylene, Monoethylene glycol and Teraphtalic Acid (among other petrochemicals) are used
  • At the Polymerization and Spinning stage, polyester is created in the form of staple fibres or filament yarns

Explaining that another way … Crude oil or gas is processed at refineries into naphtha which is subsequently used for petrochemical production to obtain mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) and terephtalic acid (TPA) or dimetyl terephthalate (DMT)15 . These raw materials then go through a polymerisation process, which results in the production of polyester (PET – Polyethylene terephthalate) chips, filament yarn or staple fibres.

You can read more about it on pages 10 and 11 at https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/WFA_Polyester_and__Viscose_2017.pdf 

Note that in addition to the above process, there is also recycled polyester that has come out recently, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.

 

Water Footprint Of Polyester (How Much Water It Takes To Make It)

  • The water footprint of polyester can be as high as 71,000 cubic metres of water per tonne of fibre
  • On average, polyester has the highest water footprint [compared to cotton and viscose], only surpassed by some conventional cotton farms in India, in which highly toxic pesticides are used.

– waterfootprint.org

 

Carbon Footprint Of Cotton, & Energy Use

  • In terms of KG of CO2 emissions per ton of spun fiber, polyester and synthetic fibres have one of the highest carbon footprints. 
  • Polyester has 9.52kg of CO2 emissions per ton of spun fiber compared to cotton at 5.90kg

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

  • In terms of energy use in MJ per KG of fiber, polyester rates only just behind Acrylic and Nylon. It uses 125 MJ, compared to cotton at 55

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

How Much Pesticide & Fertiliser Does Polyester Use

None – polyester does not come from a naturally grown fibre like cotton for example that grows in soil.

 

Polyester, & Soil Health & Land Degradation

Mining is one of the biggest causes of erosion, desertification and land degradation.

The oil extraction process required to make polyester contributes to land degradation in this way.

 

The Yield Of Polyester, & Efficiency To Process Polyester

Because of the amount of energy and water needed to make polyester, it is not as efficient of a fibre as say for example hemp or bamboo.

 

How Many Chemicals Does Polyester Use In The Processing Stage?

Polyester uses chemicals throughout essentially every stage of the processing process.

There are also chemicals used to dye and finish polyester.

 

Pollution Of Land, Air & Water By Polyester Growing & Processing

Pollution of land, air and water can happen at various stages of the polyester production process.

There’s obviously the oil extraction phase.

But, chemicals used can contaminate wastewater, and if that wastewater is not dumped properly (or re-used), it can contaminate other water and soil sources it comes into contact with.

Air pollution is also possible.

There can also be the issues of microplastics from polyester clothing.

Read more about the environmental consequences of polyester production at https://www.peacefuldumpling.com/why-polyester-production-damages-the-environment 

 

Impact Of Polyester On Humans & Human Health

  • The production process of polyester can mean workers are exposed to toxic chemicals
  • Monomers in polyester can have toxic effects

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

  • The production of polyester uses harmful chemicals, including carcinogens

– peacefuldumpling.com

 

Impact Of Polyester On Wildlife & Animals

From oil extraction, to the rest of the polyester production process, there can be disruption or removal of animal habitats, and releasing of chemicals into the water and soil that animals live in and on.

 

Is Polyester Biodegradable?

No. It can take up to 200 years for polyester fabric to decompose.

– goodonyou.eco

 

Recyclability Of Polyester

  • Up until recently you couldn’t recycle polyester over and over again

– blog.trashbackwards.com

 

  • But, some companies now are coming up with closed loop processes that allow you to recycle polyester cotton blend clothing

– eco-business.com

 

Sources

1. https://goodonyou.eco/material-guide-polyester-2/ 

2. https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/WFA_Polyester_and__Viscose_2017.pdf 

3. https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/estimating-the-carbon-footprint-of-a-fabric/ 

4. https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/polyester-and-our-health/ 

5. https://www.peacefuldumpling.com/why-polyester-production-damages-the-environment 

6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyester 

7. https://www.ecofashionsewing.com/fibres-textiles/fabric-fashion-industry-synthetic-fibres/ 

8. http://www.whatispolyester.com/

9. https://www.contrado.co.uk/blog/what-is-polyester-a-closer-look-into-this-love-it-or-hate-it-fabric/ 

10. https://www.barnhardtcotton.net/blog/know-fibers-difference-between-polyester-and-cotton/  

11. https://blog.trashbackwards.com/2013/03/19/can-you-recycle-synthetic-fabrics/ 

12. https://www.eco-business.com/news/a-way-to-repeatedly-recycle-polyester-has-just-been-discovered/

Rayon vs Viscose vs Modal vs Polyester vs Lyocell vs Bamboo: What’s The Difference?

Rayon vs Viscose vs Modal vs Polyester vs Lyocell vs Bamboo: What's The Difference?

There’s a certain group of fibres (mostly from the regenerated fibres group) which some people may get confused about in terms of what they are and how they relate to each other.

We’ve put together a short guide comparing Rayon vs Viscose vs Modal vs Polyester vs Lyocell vs Bamboo.

We look at the main differences between them and how they relate to each other.

 

Summary – Rayon vs Viscose vs Modal vs Polyester vs Lyocell vs Bamboo: What’s The Difference?

A summary of each might be:

  • Regenerated Fibres – a type of fibre which usually comes from a natural source/material e.g. wood pulp, but has a man made manufacturing process e.g. using man made chemicals

 

  • Rayon – the general name for regenerated cellulose fibres (natural fibres broken down with the use of chemicals – so rayon is generally classified as a semi synthetic fibre)

 

  • Viscose – a type of regenerated cellulose fibre (rayon) made from plants or wood pulp, using the viscose process (cellulose xanthate)

 

  • Modal – a type of regenerated cellulose fibre similar to viscose in the way it’s manufactured, except the fibres are treated slightly differently after spinning to make the filaments stronger. TENCEL brand also makes their own type of Lyocell Modal

 

  • Polyester – a synthetic material (not a natural or regenerated fibre) made from petrochemicals, and not from a natural source. Can be used as a partner material to natural and regenerated fibres

 

  • Lyocell – the same plant-based fibre as viscose and modal, but it is made using a slightly different process. Lyocell production uses a different solvent. There’s also TENCEL brand Lyocell which uses closed looped production (to capture and re-use water, chemicals, bleaches etc.) and sustainably farmed trees, such as renewable raw material beech wood, for the wood pulp. Read more about Lyocell and TENCEL

 

  • Bamboo – generally there are two types of bamboo fibres. The first is mechanically crushed bamboo which is less common, more expensive and doesn’t involve chemicals. This is a natural fibre. The second is more common and is what is referred to ‘bamboo rayon’, and involves chemically extracting the bamboo fibre from the bamboo stem (this method is less environmentally friendly if the chemicals and water are not captured). This is a regenerated fibre. Read more about Bamboo in this guide. Note that bamboo rayon can sometimes be processed in a closed loop process which is more eco friendly and captures chemical additives (but you have to check that the company or bamboo fibre supply chain specifically does this).

 

* NOTE: the differences in these fibres can differ depending on the sourcing of the fibre, the manufacturing process and chemicals used, the structure of the fibre and the eventual qualities and features of the finished product e.g. softness, look, moisture retention etc. So, the above are generalised descriptions with this in mind.

 

How To Know What Your Clothes Are Made From?

Look at the label when you purchase them. They should tell you whether they are 100% one type of fibre, or a blend e.g. 60% one material/40% another.

Different countries have different definitions of each type of fibre and how clothing brands can label their clothes – so be aware of this in the country you live in.

You may have to do research on the brand themselves to find out how they make their clothes.

You can go to their website and check for a description of their materials and products, including what takes place in their supply chain and production process.

 

Regenerated Fibres

Regenerated fibres are man made/artificial, but not synthetic. You might call them semi-synthetic fibres.

The name comes from the manufacturing process used when the raw material used to create the fibre is reformed or regenerated.

The raw material [used] is [usually] cellulose, such as wood pulp or cotton waste and linters from cotton fabric manufacture.

So, with regenerated fibres, the raw materials comes from a natural source usually, but the manufacturing process involves artificially modifying the fibre.

The variables in the type of regenerated fibre are usually:

  • the manufacturing process (which chemicals are used, how, and at what stage of production)
  • and, the structure of the filament

The three main groups of fibres used in the fashion industry are natural, regenerated and synthetic fibres.

 

Rayon

The generic name for regenerated cellulose fibres is rayon. This is really a ‘catch all’ phrase for different types of rayon e.g. viscose rayon, modal rayon etc.

The type of rayon is determined by the special or individual chemical process used for making the fibre.

The meaning of rayon can also sometimes differ between countries.

 

Viscose

One of the mass produced regenerated fibres is viscose.

The cellulose from a purified wood pulp is chemically transformed into a viscose solution from which the yarn is produced and then the fabric manufactured.

 

Modal and Cupro

Modal has as a very similar manufacturing process to viscose with similar chemicals used.

Modal fibres though are treated slightly differently after spinning to make the filaments stronger.

For example, the fibres are also stretched to increase molecular alignment. This means that modal fibres have the potential to be lighter and finer and can be tumble dried without damage.

Other than that viscose and modal are similar products.

Both modal and cupro involve transforming a raw material into a solution and then producing the fibre into regenerated cellulose fibres. 

TENCEL makes both a lyocell, and a modal fibre, and you can read about both in this guide. They note Modal is good for combining with cotton, and has a sleek cross section, adds long-lasting softness to fabrics, enhancing the touch even after repeated washing. Their Modal fibre is manufactured from the renewable source of raw material beech wood, sourced from sustainable forests in Austria and neighboring countries. 

 

Lyocell

Read a guide about what lyocell and TENCEL are here. Lyocell yarn might be made of filament fibres (as opposed to staple fibres), which are generally longer and smoother than staple fibres, are used in items that have a silkier appearance such as women’s clothing and men’s dress shirts. Lyocell can be blended with a variety of other fibres such as silk, cotton, rayon, polyester, linen, nylon, and wool.

Naturally, two properties of lyocell are that it doesn’t always accept dyes well, and it has an inherent tendency to fibrillate or “pill”. To get around this – wet/chemical processing has to take place to control the surface of the fibre.

 

Lyocell is still the same plant-based fibre as viscose and modal, but it is made using a slightly different process.

Lyocell production uses a different solvent to extract the cellulose from the wood: sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) is replaced by a non-toxic organic compound with the catchy name N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO for short).

This organic solvent is easier to filter and re-use in a closed loop, which is better for the environment [TENCEL does this with a solvent-spinning process recycles process water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%.]

The Austrian firm Lenzing make their lyocell, branded as Tencel®, from fast-growing Eucalyptus trees from sustainably managed forests.

– undershirts.co.uk 

 

The manufacturing process of regenerated fibres involves the use of high-toxic and hazardous chemicals, such as caustic soda and sulphuric acid – one of many reasons that lead to decline in viscose use in garment production.

Hence other sustainable regenerated fibres with less environmental impact and non-toxic manufacture process were developed during the 20th century.

Developed in the 1980s, lyocell is an eco-friendly regenerated fibre made from wood pulp, usually eucalyptus. Further developed as tencel, some of environmentally benefits of this fibre are its renewable raw material and its full biodegradability (eucalyptus reaches maturity in seven years).

– ecofashionsewing.com

 

Bamboo

Rayon from bamboo comes from the bamboo fibres when they are broken down using chemicals.

 

Bamboo fibre is directly extracted from the bamboo culm or stem. 

In order to produce fashion fabric though, bamboo is processed in a viscose spinning way, in which bamboo is the source of raw cellulose. From sustainable point of view this way of processing the bamboo still use chemical additives. Hence the similar environmental impact as from processing conventional viscose.

There is, however, an eco-friendly way, similar to lyocell spinning with no chemical additives, however there is still a lot more room for development in this area.

As a result, there are two kind of viscose bamboo: regular (from viscose spinning) and bio-bamboo (from lyocell spinning). Both methods make amazing soft and fine textiles yet the second only is the “greenest” and obtains much higher strength compared to the other.

Despite all, bamboo is an easy to grow, rapidly regenerating raw material and developing technologies in fibre processing can make it the new substitution of viscose rayon with so much to offer at an affordable prices.

– ecofashionsewing.com

 

Textiles labelled as being made from bamboo are usually not made by mechanical crushing and retting. They are generally synthetic rayon made from cellulose extracted from bamboo [with chemicals].

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ruled that unless a yarn is made directly with bamboo fibre — often called “mechanically processed bamboo” — it must be called “rayon” or “rayon made from bamboo”.

– wikipedia.org

 

Other Eco Friendly & Renewable Fibres

During the last few decades, under the demand of more environmentally friendly processes from renewable sources, other regenerated fibres have been developed.

They are made from a protein – either from a vegetable, such as soya beans, or from an animal, such as milk. The respective protein structure is modified by bioengineering techniques. Then the resulted solution is spun into a fibre.

Soya fibres have natural antibacterial properties. To be real eco-friendly though, soya fibre needs to be grown in organic water-wise way, with no genetical modification. Unfortunately, this results in very expensive production (even more than the organically produced cotton), which makes it less desirable from the fashion industry point of view.

– ecofashionsewing.com

 

Polyester

Different to all the above fibres.

Polyester is not made from natural material, but from petrochemicals and is classified as a synthetic fibre.

Out of the regenerated fibres, viscose is the weakest. The other disadvantages of regenerated fibres are: distorting and wrinkling easily, poor sunlight resistance, and poor durability.

Thus, the blending viscose and other regenerated fibres with synthetics particularly is common practice. Combination of polyester and viscose, for example, is extensively used because of its durability, comfortable wear, easy-care and better wrinkle resistance.

More info on polyester and synthetic fibres can be found at – https://www.ecofashionsewing.com/fibres-textiles/fabric-fashion-industry-synthetic-fibres/

 

More Information On The Above Fibres & How They Relate To Each Other

Can be found at:

  • https://www.ecofashionsewing.com/fibres-textiles/fabric-fashion-industry-regenerated-fibres/ 
  • https://www.undershirts.co.uk/blogs/research/viscose-vs-modal-vs-lyocell

 

Sources

1. https://www.ecofashionsewing.com/fibres-textiles/fabric-fashion-industry-regenerated-fibres/  

2. https://www.undershirts.co.uk/blogs/research/viscose-vs-modal-vs-lyocell   

3. https://www.ecofashionsewing.com/fibres-textiles/fabric-fashion-industry-synthetic-fibres/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/what-are-lyocell-tencel-short-guide-uses-how-they-are-made-more/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/short-guide-about-bamboo-uses-products-growing-more/

Is Silk Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Cruelty Free For Fibre, Fabrics & Products?

Is Silk Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Cruelty Free For Fibre, Fabrics & Products?

 

Many people like silk as a fabric or fibre, but some question how it is made and what impact silk’s production has.

In this short guide, we look at how silk rates amongst different measures to see how sustainable, eco friendly and cruelty free it really is.

 

* Note that silk production and manufacturing may differ by country

* Different silk farming technology and methods, and other factors can impact how silk is produced

All of these factors can impact the final pros and cons for any particular silk product.

 

Summary – Is Silk Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Cruelty Free To Animals For Fibre, Fabrics & Products?

Regular silk is made from animal protein – usually from silkworms.

Regular silk is not an option if you are vegan or you are against animal cruelty – as silkworms are usually boiled alive to make it.

Silk is relatively sustainable and eco friendly though (although the yield is quite small – it takes about 2500 silkworms to produce a pound of raw silk).

Compared to cotton for example, there is far less impact on the land, water and air, and it doesn’t involve the use of pesticides.

Silk is very efficient from an inputs point of view (land, water, and resources required at the growing stage).

Other options to regular silk might be Peace silk, TENCEL, organic bamboo, hemp, organic cotton and other types of silk like Art silk and spider silk.

 

Cruelty To Animals (Silkworms) In The Silk Industry

  • Extracting raw silk starts by cultivating the silkworms on mulberry leaves. Once the worms start pupating in their cocoons, these are dissolved in boiling water in order for individual long fibres to be extracted and fed into the spinning reel.

– wikipedia.org

 

There is a form of making silk called Peace Silk, where silkworms are allowed to hatch out their cocoons, but it is more costly and takes more time.

 

How Much Water Does Silk Use For Farming & Processing/Manufacturing?

Compared to other fibres, it uses very little.

Water is used to both boil silk cocoons, and to clean the silk of sericin just before the yarn or even woven fabric stage.

Water is also used in the water footprint for the mulberry leaves that the silkworm larvae are fed.

 

Carbon Footprint Of Silk, & Energy Use

Carbon footprint is very small. 

There are energy inputs to grow the mulberry trees used to extract the mulberry leaves to feed the silkworm larvae.

Mulberry trees actually provide a carbon sink – sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

 

How Much Pesticide & Fertilizer Does Silk Use

Very little – only what is used to grow the mulberry trees.

 

Silk, & Soil Health & Land Degradation

There is very little soil and land impact for silk.

Mulberry trees can be reasonably sustainably grown.

Also, silkworms are usually bred not on land, but in a box and then moved to gauze – essentially it can be done in commercial silkworm facilities.

 

The Yield Of Silk, Efficiency To Process Silk, & How Effective Silk Farming Is

The amount of usable silk in each cocoon is small, and about 2500 silkworms are required to produce a pound of raw silk.

– texeresilk.com

 

To produce 1 kg of silk, 104 kg of mulberry leaves must be eaten by 3000 silkworms. It takes about 5000 silkworms to make a pure silk kimono.

– wikipedia.org

 

How Many Chemicals Does Wool Use In The Processing Stage?

Very few. 

Although it can be dyed or have chemicals applied to it once it’s turned into a fabric.

 

Pollution Of Land, Air & Water By Silk During Farming & Processing

Nowhere near as much as other fibres.

Wool for example deals with issues like methane from sheep. Whilst cotton deals with pesticides, fertilizers, processing chemicals, and dyes and bleaches all being able to pollute water, soil and land.

Silkworms leave less of an environmental pollution impact.

 

Impact Of Silk On Humans & Human Health

Almost nothing.

 

Impact Of Silk On Wildlife & Animals

Obviously there’s a huge impact on silkworms.

Approximately 2500 silkworms die to make 1 pound of raw silk.

 

Biodegradability & Recyclability Of Silk

In it’s natural form, silk is biodegradable and recyclable.

If it’s been treated with synthetic chemicals or combined with synthetic fibres in a fabric though, it may not be.

 

More Information About Mulberry Trees & Leaves (Used To Feed Silkworms)

The White Mulberry Tree is the one with the leaves usually used to feed silkworms.

Read more about it here:

  • https://permaculturenews.org/2017/10/12/mo-mulberry-essential-guide-need-know-mulberry/

 

Top Silk Producing Countries

  • The major silk producers in 2005 were China (54%) and India (14%)

– wikipedia.org

 

Vegan Alternatives To Regular Silk

  • Peace silk, or Ahimsa silk – where silk worms are allowed to hatch from their silk cocoon naturally. This silk can have different capabilities though because the silk fibres are now shorter compared to if the egg was in tact
  • Spider silk – made from yeast, water, and sugar
  • Art silk – made from bamboo ‘silk’ in a chemical manufacturing process

– eluxemagazine.com

 

Sources

1. https://eluxemagazine.com/fashion/vegan-silks/ 

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk 

3. https://texeresilk.com/article/silk_making_how_to_make_silk 

4. https://permaculturenews.org/2017/10/12/mo-mulberry-essential-guide-need-know-mulberry/ 

Is Wool Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Cruelty Free To Animals For Fibre, Fabrics & Products?

Is Wool Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Cruelty Free To Animals For Fibre, Fabrics & Products?

 

Wool is one of the common fibres used in fabrics and different products.

In this short guide, we look at how wool rates amongst different measures to see how sustainable, eco friendly and cruelty free it really is.

 

* Note that wool farming and manufacturing may differ by country

* Different farming technology and methods, and other factors can impact how wool is produced

Both of these factors can impact the final pros and cons for any particular wool product.

 

Summary – Is Wool Sustainable, Eco Friendly & Cruelty Free To Animals For Fibre, Fabrics & Products?

Wool is usually not a good option if you do not support cruelty to animals, or animals being used to make products/fibres.

In terms of eco impact, wool probably comes out just in front or equal with a fibre like cotton which uses a lot of pesticides, fertilizers, processing chemicals, bleaches and dyes. But, some question that because of the sheer amount of methane that sheep emit (that contributes to global warming).

Organic options like organic cotton, organic bamboo, and hemp, jute, TENCEL seem like better environmental, sustainable and cruelty free options than the both of them.

It’s important to note that both wool and cotton are making some changes to improve their industries.

Wool farmers are experimenting with gut vaccines that inhibit gut organisms, and can thus reduce the animals’ methane emissions by up to 20 percent. And some wool producers are using new dying procedures that might allow for the fabric to be treated at lower temperatures—a small measure, perhaps, but one that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. 

Cotton seeds are mostly GMO seeds in the US – and GMO seeds provide many beneficial traits for growing efficiency, sustainability and eco impact (but the use of them is still controversial to some).

 

Cruelty To Animals (Sheep, Goats etc.) In The Wool Industry

Obviously animals like sheep and goat are used to make wool.

This raises the issues of using animals for products and by products, and animal cruelty issues. 

 

Invasive procedures that can take place in the wool industry on animals like sheep and goats are:

  • Ear tagging
  • Ear notching
  • Dehorning
  • Marking
  • Mulesing 
  • Tail Docking
  • Teeth Grinding

There can also be concerns with high stocking densities of animals and restricted movement on animals during activities like live export

– wikipedia.org

 

You can read more about the wool industry and animal cruelty issues at:

  • https://www.peta.org.au/issues/clothing/cruelty-wool/ 
  • https://www.peta.org/living/personal-care-fashion/whats-wrong-wool/ 
  • https://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/natural-beauty-fashion/stories/whats-the-most-eco-friendly-form-of-wool (Merino wool in particular can have animal cruelty issues) 
  • https://www.peta.org.uk/blog/forget-wool-eco-friendly-vegan-fabrics-are-the-future/ (potential animal cruelty issues in the UK wool industry)

 

How Much Water Does Wool Use For Farming & Processing/Manufacturing?

  • Water is used from raising the sheep to cleaning the fiber
  • It takes approximately 500,000 liters of water to manufacture a metric ton of wool, and this figure is even higher when the sheep in question are fed in confined quarters, where extra water is required to manage the manure.
  • Though cotton requires 2,500 liters of water for just one t-shirt, and that’s just for its growth

– treehugger.com, and slate.com

 

Water can also be heavily used in the processing stage to wash and clean the wool before spinning it into a yarn

– blackberry-ridge.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of Wool, & Energy Use

  • Sheep belch 20 to 30 liters of climate-changing methane per day
  • In New Zealand, home to 45 million sheep (to under 5 million people), more than half of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions come from their livestock (like sheep)

– treehugger.com

 

  • In addition to the methane sheep emit from burping, there is also nitrogen in sheep dung (which can emit nitrous oxide)

– slate.com

 

  • Sheep are part of the natural carbon cycle, consuming the organic carbon stored in plants and converting it to wool. Fifty per cent of the weight of wool is pure organic carbon.
  • Wool is a short-term store of natural, renewable carbon. Pure organic carbon makes up 50% of the weight of wool, higher than cotton (40%) or wood pulp-derived regenerated cellulosic such as viscose (24%).
  • While the carbon is stored in wool and thus isolated, there is less carbon in the atmosphere. This mitigates climate change. By how much? Converted into CO2 equivalents (CO2-e), 1 kg of clean wool = 1.8 kg of CO2-e  .  In 2014, the global wool clip represented approx. 1.05 millions tons of clean wool which equals 1.9 million tons of CO2-e

– iwto.org

 

How Much Pesticide & Fertilizer Does Wool Use

There’s two potential ways for pesticides & fertilizers to be used in wool farming:

  • if the sheep are sprayed with any type of insect or pest chemical spray (like they are in some countries)
  • if the sheep are fed on a feed crop in addition to, or, instead of eating grass on pasture land – the crops need to be fertilized and sprayed with a pesticide

 

  • Some farmers use a ‘sheep dip’ to keep pests and diseases away from the sheep – the sheep are sprayed or ‘dipped’ with anti pest chemical

– followgreenliving.com

 

Wool, & Soil Health & Land Degradation

It depends how the sheep are farmed.

The more they are pasture farmed and rotated to different pastures, the less damage they do, and they can actually have a positive effect on the soil because their manure can organically drop nutrients back into the soil.

However, if the sheep are intensively farmed to a smaller area, there can certainly be soil and land degradation, erosion and desertification.

 

Something to keep in mind, is that in terms of land use, wool might only need grazing land or pasture land, compared to other fibres which might need more fertile soil – so sheep might be able to make use of land that some plant grown fibres can’t.

 

The Yield Of Wool, Efficiency To Process Wool, & How Effective Wool Farming Is

Yield of wool depends on many factors, especially the breed of sheep used. Read more about yield of wool here:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wool#Fineness_and_yield 
  • http://www.sheep101.info/201/woolmarketing.html 

 

How Many Chemicals Does Wool Use In The Processing Stage?

You can read more about the wool to yarn process, and wool bleaching and dying here:

  • https://www.blackberry-ridge.com/prosdscr.htm 
  • https://www.woolmark.com/about-wool/wool-processing/woollen-dyeing-bleaching/?enforce=true 

Wool probably doesn’t use as many chemicals as some other fibres like cotton or bamboo in the processing stage. But, wool still can use some.

 

Pollution Of Land, Air & Water By Wool During Farming & Processing

There can be several negative side effects from wool farming that pollutes the land, air and water:

Land & Soil – there can be land degradation, erosion and desertification from intense or densely concentrated farming of sheep.

Water – run off from sheep manure can contaminate water supplies. Also, any sheep dip used, and pesticides for animal feed, can also run off and get into water supplies. If wool is processed with synthetic chemicals, these chemicals can also contaminate water, and be discharged into the environment.

Air – emission of methane from sheep burping, and nitrous oxide from manure. These can cause climate change and air pollution.

 

Impact Of Wool On Humans & Human Health

Probably minimal.

Some farms may use insecticide type sprays on their sheep to prevent fly and insect diseases and health issues with the sheep. Farm workers may be at risk if they come into contact with these chemicals.

It’s also worth considering, humans could come into contact with pesticides on farms where feed is grown if sheep and goats are fed additional feed to the grass on the pasture land.

 

Impact Of Wool On Wildlife & Animals

There’s two main issues to consider:

  • Using animals to make wool – can be an issue for vegans
  • Animal cruelty issues such as live export, mulesing, and more

 

Biodegradability & Recyclability Of Wool

Wool is a natural, renewable and recyclable and biodegradable fibre.

This is assuming though that is hasn’t been treated with any synthetic chemicals or combined with other fibres which may be synthetic.

 

  • Wool is one of the most recycled fibres. With a market share of 1,3% of all textile fibres, wool claims 5% within the recycled fibres market share

– iwto.org

 

Option For Organic Wool

Yes, there is organic wool available on the market which doesn’t make use of any synthetic chemicals.

 

Some Other Benefits To Wool

  • Wool can be combined with other eco friendly fibres like jute – http://www.earthtimes.org/green-blogs/eco-friendly-fashion/sustainable-material-revival-wool-6-may-11/ 
  • Other benefits of wool in terms of features for clothing -https://www.sustainablelivingfabrics.com.au/benefits-of-wool 

 

Some Other Cons To Wool

  • There are eco friendly fibre alternatives to wool, which makes some question why wool needs to be used – https://www.peta.org.uk/blog/forget-wool-eco-friendly-vegan-fabrics-are-the-future/

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_animals 

2. https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/which-is-greener-wool-or-cotton.html 

3. https://slate.com/technology/2008/01/if-i-want-to-help-the-environment-should-i-buy-wool-or-cotton.html 

4. https://www.peta.org.au/issues/clothing/cruelty-wool/ 

5. https://www.peta.org/living/personal-care-fashion/whats-wrong-wool/ 

6. https://followgreenliving.com/organic-wool-eco-friendly-reason-shun-conventional-wool-production/ 

7. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/green-and-ethical-yarns-and-textiles/ 

8. https://www.iwto.org/sustainability 

9. http://www.earthtimes.org/green-blogs/eco-friendly-fashion/sustainable-material-revival-wool-6-may-11/ 

10. https://www.sustainablelivingfabrics.com.au/benefits-of-wool 

11. https://www.peta.org.uk/blog/forget-wool-eco-friendly-vegan-fabrics-are-the-future/ 

12. https://www.blackberry-ridge.com/prosdscr.htm 

13. https://www.woolmark.com/about-wool/wool-processing/woollen-dyeing-bleaching/?enforce=true  

14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wool#Fineness_and_yield 

15. http://www.sheep101.info/201/woolmarketing.html 

Is Jute Eco Friendly & Sustainable For Fibre, Textiles & Products?

Is Jute Eco Friendly & Sustainable For Fibre, Textiles & Products?

Jute is seen as one of the more eco friendly fibres available.

But, is it really? Or, is it just a reputation it has been given?

In this short guide, we look at how jute rates amongst different measures to see how sustainable and eco friendly it really is.

* Note that jute growing/farming, and processing may differ by country, especially between the first world and developing world countries.

* Different conditions, climates, soils, farming technology, farming methods and other factors can impact how well the jute fibre grows, and different factories and processing plants for jute have different procedures.

All of these factors can impact the final pros and cons for any particular jute product.

 

First, What Is Jute?

Jute is a natural fibre usually. extracted from the bark of the white jute plant.

You can read more about what Jute in this guide.

 

Summary – How Sustainable & Eco Friendly Is Jute For Fibre, Textiles & Products?

The growing and production process of jute seems very eco friendly and sustainable compared to many other fibres.

It’s mostly rain fed (leaving a small water footprint), and uses few toxic chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, processing chemicals, dyes and bleaches.

The downsides to jute are that it can’t be used for clothing as much as other fibres (it’s more for ropes, sacks, and other products), there are synthetic materials available for some of it’s uses (such as plastic), and growth and production is mostly limited to a handful of countries.

So to an industry like the fashion industry for example, cotton, bamboo, TENCEL, hemp and other fibres might be more appealing and as having wider range of use because of their qualities and features.

But, other industrial industries may find good use for it as an eco friendly option.

It’s worth noting jute is fairly water hungry, but it isn’t highly irrigated with freshwater resources (it uses sustainable rainfall instead).

 

How Much Water Does Jute Use For Growing & Manufacturing/Processing?

  • Jute does require a lot of water … so it’s most prevalent in locales with monsoon seasons such as India and Bangladesh.

– networx.com

 

  • Jute is a rain-fed crop [meaning less irrigated water from freshwater sources are used]
  • Jute needs tropical rainfall, warm weather and high humidity [to grow]
  • Jute crop requires 500 mm of water. First irrigation is to be given after sowing and life irrigation on fourth day after sowing. Afterwards irrigation can be given once in 15 days.

– climatecolab.org

 

Jute has a low water footprint because it is mostly rain fed.

 

Carbon Footprint Of Jute, & Energy Use

  • The carbon footprint is low.
  • Jute is a fast growing field crop with high carbon dioxide (CO2) assimilation rate.
  • Jute plants clean the air by consuming large quantities of CO2, which is the main cause of the greenhouse effect.
  • One hectare of jute plants can consume about 15 tons of CO2 from atmosphere and release about 11 tons of oxygen in the 100 days of the jute-growing season.
  • Studies also show that the CO2 assimilation rate of jute is several times higher than trees. (Inagaki, 2000)

– purejute.com

 

How Much Pesticide & Fertilizer Does It Take To Grow Jute

  • Jute [has] little need for fertilizer or pesticides.
  • Jute growers use fairly small amount of chemical fertilisers and herbicides. – 20 kg per ha each of N, P2O5 and K2O are to be applied basally.
  • Five tonnes of well decomposed farm yard manure [can] be applied during last ploughing

– climatecolab.org

 

Jute, & Soil Health & Land Degradation

  • Jute cropping system enhances soil organic matter through leaf shedding during the growing season and improves nutrient availability in the soil.
  • Jute is commonly rotated with other food crops like rice and other cereals, vegetables, oilseeds or pulses, all of which are moderately or heavy feeders of nutrients from the native source, but do not normally return them to soil, except in case of legumes, as jute does.
  • Jute-based multiple cropping thus not only increases agricultural production, but may also sustain the fertility level of soil mainly through leaf fall and organic waste decomposition under jute, if the inputs throughout the rotation are used judiciously.

– climatecolab.org

 

  • can be grown on waste land, including tidal areas and alkaline soils.
  • multiple seasons of jute growth can rehabilitate waste land, allowing it to be used for other crops including rice.

– purejute.com

 

The Yield Of Jute, & Efficiency To Process Jute

  • Yields are about 2 tonnes of dry jute fibre per hectare
  • Green plant weight yield is 45 to 50 tonnes per hectare
  • Fibre yield is 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes per hectare.
  • On average, jute yields four times more fibre per acre than flax.
  • Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibres and considered second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibres.

– climatecolab.org

 

  • About 85% of more of Jute crops are rainfed crops in India
  • The average fibre yields are low at 22 to 23 q/ha
  • Yields can vary with erratic rainfall distribution, and poor agronomic management practices

– researchgate.net

 

  • Jute plant fibers are quick and cheap to grow [making them efficient overall to make and sell]

– cleanfax.com

 

  • growth cycle is very short, typically 4-6 months

– purejute.com

 

How Effectively Is The Jute Plant Used?

  • Jute yields 5 -10 MT of dry matter per acre of land. About 1 MT of dry matter is put back to the soil in the form of leaves.  About 3 MT of roots remain in the soil.

– climatecolab.org

 

How Many Chemicals Does Jute Use In The Processing Stage?

  • The fibres lie beneath the bark around the woody core or ‘hurd’.
  • To extract the fibre, the jute bundles are submerged in water and left for a few days until the fibres come loose and are ready for stripping from the stalk, then washed and dried.
  • The environmental impacts of jute production are much less harmful as compared to the production of synthetic fibers.

– climatecolab.org

 

Pollution Of Land, Air & Water By Jute Growing & Processing

Probably not as much as regular cotton.

Fewer pesticides, fertilizers, processing chemicals, bleaches and dyes are used.

This means less water waste, and less toxic chemicals getting/leaching/being discharged into the water, soil and air.

 

Impact Of Jute On Humans & Human Health

  • jute fibre are used worldwide in sackcloth – and help sustain the livelihoods of millions of small farmers.

– climatecolab.org

 

Because few pesticides are used to grow jute – jute is better for the health of jute farm workers compared to say regular cotton farm workers – because there is less exposure to breathe pesticides in from the air or have it come into contact with the skin.

 

Impact Of Jute On Wildlife & Animals

Probably lesser than regular cotton – due to less toxic chemicals being used in the growing and processing stages.

 

Biodegradability Of Jute

Jute fibre is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable [as long as it is not combined with other fibres or grown or processed with toxic chemicals]

– fao.org

 

Sources

1. https://www.networx.com/article/jute-mats-sustainable-durable-and-wat

2. http://www.jpdepc.org/about-jute.html

3. https://www.purejute.com/en/jute-environment/

4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304019632_Principles_and_practices_for_water_management_in_jute_crop

5. https://www.climatecolab.org/contests/2016/materials-matter/c/proposal/1330505

6. https://cleanfax.com/rug-cleaning/know-jute-rugs/

7. http://www.fao.org/economic/futurefibres/fibres/jute/en/

A Short Guide About Jute: Uses/Products, Growing & More

A Short Guide About Jute: Uses/Products, Growing & More

This is a short guide about jute.

We outline how jute is grown, how jute is processed and made, + more.

 

What Is Jute?

  • Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads.

– wikipedia.org

 

Because jute is a natural vegetable fiber, it’s considered an eco friendly fibre. It’s biodegradable and recyclable.

 

Jute Plant Fibre Traits

  • Jute is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant (Corchorus capsularis) and to a lesser extent from tossa jute (C. olitorius).

– fao.org

 

  • Jute fibers are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin.
  • It falls into the bast fiber category (fiber collected from bast, the phloem of the plant, sometimes called the “skin”) along with kenaf, industrial hemp, flax (linen), ramie, etc.
  • The industrial term for jute fiber is raw jute.
  • The fibers are off-white to brown, and 1–4 metres (3–13 feet) long.
  • Jute is also called the golden fiber for its color and high cash value.
  • Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers in existence and it is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses.

– wikipedia.org

 

What Is Jute Used For?

  • “Jute” is the name of the plant or fiber that is used to make burlap, hessian or gunny cloth.
  • Making twine, rope, and matting are among its uses.
  • In combination with sugar, the possibility of using jute to build aeroplane panels has been considered.
  • Jute is in great demand due to its cheapness, softness, length, lustre and uniformity of its fiber.
  • It is called the ‘brown paper bag’ as it is also used to store rice, wheat, grains, etc. It is also called the ‘golden fiber’ due to its versatile nature.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Jute is used chiefly to make cloth for wrapping bales of raw cotton, and to make sacks and coarse cloth. The fibers are also woven into curtains, chair coverings, carpets, area rugs, hessian cloth, and backing for linoleum.
  • Synthetic fibres might be replacing Jute for some of these uses, but jute is remaining a fibre of choice where biodegradability is important

– wikipedia.org

 

How Is Jute Grown, & Jute Made/Manufactured From Flax Fibres?

  • Jute is an annual crop taking about 120 days (April/May-July/August) to grow. 
  • It thrives in tropical lowland areas with humidity of 60% to 90%. Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides. 
  • Yields are about 2 tonnes of dry jute fibre per hectare. 

– fao.org

 

  • [once jute is grown and harvested], the fibres can be extracted by either biological or chemical retting processes.
  • Given the expense of using chemicals to strip the fibre from the stem biological processes are more widely practices.
  • Biological retting can be done by either by stack, steep and ribbon processes which involve different techniques of  bundling jute stems together and soaking in water to help separate the fibres from the stem before stripping.
  • After the retting process, stripping begins.
  • In the stripping process, non-fibrous matter is scraped off, leaving the fibres to be pulled out from within the stem.

– fao.org

 

  • The major manufactured products from jute fibre are: Yarn and twine, sacking, hessian, carpet backing cloth and as well as for other textile blends.
  • It has high tensile strength, low extensibility, and ensures better breathability of fabrics.
  • The fibres are woven into curtains, chair coverings, carpets and area rugs and are also often blended with other fibres, both synthetic and natural.
  • The finest threads can be separated out and made into imitation silk.
  • Jute can also be blended with wool.
  • By treating jute with caustic soda, crimp, softness, pliability, and appearance is improved, aiding in its ability to be spun with wool.   
  • Jute can also be used for packaging, and by products like cosmetics, medicine, paints, and other products.

– fao.org

 

You can read more about how Jute is grown and what it is used for at http://www.jpdepc.org/about-jute.html 

 

Which Countries Grow & Produce The Most Jute?

  • Jute is a product of South Asia and specifically a product of India and Bangladesh. About 95% of world jute is grown in these two south Asian countries. Nepal and Myanmar also produce a small amount of jute.
  • Jute production fluctuates, influenced by weather conditions and prices. Annual output in the last decade ranges from 2.5 to 3.2 million tonnes, on a par with wool. India and Bangladesh account for about  60% and 30%, respectively, of the world’s production., Bangladesh exports nearly 40% as raw fibre, and  about 50% as manufactured items. India exports nearly 200 000 tonnes of jute products, the remainder being consumed domestically.

– fao.org

 

You can see the top 10 producers by metric tonne in 2014 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jute 

 

Value Of The Jute Industry

  • The size of the global jute industry [in 2013] is ~USD 1.75 billion, of which India accounts for ~USD 1.25 billion or 70% of jute produced.

– horizonresearchpartners.com 

 

Jute is a natural fibre with eco friendly qualities. As demand for natural fibres grows, it’s expected the jute industry can grow. But, the popularity of cheap alternatives like plastic do also limit the demand for jute.

 

Sources

1. http://www.fao.org/economic/futurefibres/fibres/jute/en/ 

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jute 

3. http://horizonresearchpartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Jute-Industry.pdf 

4. http://www.jpdepc.org/about-jute.html 

Is Organic Cotton Sustainable & Eco Friendly For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

Is Organic Cotton Sustainable & Eco Friendly For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

 

Organic cotton is seen as one of the new age more eco friendly fibres.

But, is it really? Or, is it hype and marketing?

In this short guide, we look at how organic cotton rates amongst different measures to see how sustainable and eco friendly it really is.

* Note that organic cotton growing/farming, and processing may differ by country, especially between the first world and developing world countries.

* Different conditions, climates, soils, farming technology, farming methods and other factors can impact how well the organic cotton fibre grows, and different factories and processing plants for organic cotton have different procedures.

All of these factors can impact the final pros and cons for any particular organic cotton product.

 

First, What Is Organic Cotton?

Essentially, cotton that is grown without GMO seeds, and cotton grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, or synthetic processing chemicals, bleaches, dyes etc.

It’s grown and produced with a focus on natural processes/methods and substances/chemicals.

Read more about what organic cotton is in this guide.

To know that the organic cotton you buy is definitely organic – look for certified organic cotton that meets certain standards.

 

Some of the other features of organic cotton might be:

  • Crop rotation, intercropping, and composting
  • Uses rainwater instead of irrigated freshwater (or uses primarily rainwater)
  • Uses soil balance, trap crops, and beneficial insects to manage pests
  • Physical removing or intercropping to remove weeds
  • Natural defoliation
  • Use of natural processing chemicals
  • Capture of water and re-use, and capture and re-use of chemicals in processing stage

 

Summary – How Sustainable & Eco Friendly Is Organic Cotton For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

There’s two main stages to making cotton products – growing, and processing.

In the growing stage, organic cotton seems to be better for the environment than regular cotton, but the yields can be lower, time invested can be higher, and land use can be higher. So, there are some sustainability questions.

In the processing stage, certified organic cotton definitely appears to be more sustainable and eco friendly than regular cotton if less toxic chemicals, dyes and bleaches are used, these chemicals are captured and re-used, and water is captured, treated and re-used.

Organic cotton seems to have a similar level of eco friendly and sustainability rating as hemp, bamboo, and TENCEL/lyocell. But, overall, appears better than regular cotton.

One of the big variables with regular cotton as technology advances is the use of GMO seeds which are genetically engineered for beneficial traits to do with better water efficiency and producing cotton that may not need as much pesticide or fertilizer.

The use of GMOs is questionable by some, and supported by others.

Some people support combining the best practices (which are also safe) from both conventional and organic farming, instead of choosing one or the other. 

 

How Much Water Does Organic Cotton Use For Growing & Processing/Manufacturing?

  • [organic cotton can] use far less water to grow [compared to regular cotton] since organic cotton growers typically utilize rain far more than irrigation.

– swedishlinens.com

 

It’s worth noting water efficiency is becoming better with regular cotton as irrigation systems and biotechnology (genetic engineering for water retention, drought resistance etc.) improves.

 

Carbon Footprint Of Organic Cotton, & Energy Use

  • Organic cotton produces around 46% less CO2e compared to conventional cotton.

– swedishlinens.com

 

Various sources say organic fibres (like organic cotton) have a smaller carbon footprint than regular fibres [like conventional cotton] over the life cycle of growing and producing the fibre into a final product.

Cotton is also a natural fibre, making it even more better from a carbon footprint perspective compared to a synthetic fibre.

 

How Much Pesticide & Fertilizer Does Organic Cotton Use To Grow

Instead of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, organic cotton uses other natural methods for pest control and nutrient additives such as integrated pest management, and manure or composting.

So, organic cotton is better than regular cotton in this regard.

 

Organic Cotton, & Soil Health & Land Degradation

In terms of soil health, soil health is kept high with organic cotton through crop rotation, intercropping, and composting. Organic matter builds up on the soil so the soil can retain nutrients. Beneficial insects and beneficial soil bacteria also contribute to soil health.

 

In terms of land use:

  • organic farms use more land and labour to produce the same amount of produce as conventional agriculture. That’s the major reason you pay more for organic products.

– theconversation.com

 

The Yield Of Organic Cotton, & Efficiency To Process Organic Cotton

  • organic [cotton] farmers can save on energy by cutting synthetic pesticides and herbicides [compared to regular cotton], [but] their yield per acre drops

– slate.com

 

How Effectively Is The Organic Cotton Plant Used?

Reasonably effectively. The lint can be used for cotton fibre, and seeds can be used for cottonseed oil.

 

How Many Chemicals Does Organic Cotton Use In The Processing Stage?

Certified organic cotton has to use non toxic processing chemicals, dyes, bleaches and procedures to be classified as organic cotton.

So, in comparison to regular cotton, it doesn’t use as many harmful chemicals during processing (unless the regular cotton is Oeko tex 100 standard for example).

 

Pollution Of Land, Air & Water By Organic Cotton Growing & Processing

Overall, there’s probably going to be less pollution by organic cotton compared to regular cotton.

With regular cotton:

  • pesticide gets into the air, soil and water
  • fertilizer gets into the soil, and leaches into the water (creating an excess of nitrogen)
  • processing chemicals, dyes and bleaches get into waste water and this water is discharged into the environment (polluting water, and wasting water)

Organic cotton uses natural/organic pesticides and fertilizers for growing, so there is less pollution to the air, soil and water with synthetic substances.

Organic cotton also might catch and re-use waste water, as well as catch and re-use bleaches and dyes at the processing stage – preventing a lot of water pollution and water waste.

 

Impact Of Organic Cotton On Humans & Human Health

It’s worth noting that not all natural pesticides are completely harmless to humans, but generally, organic cotton with less synthetic pesticides is better for human health (cotton farm workers in developing countries especially). 

Natural bleaches, dyes and processing chemicals are also better for humans who process the cotton, and the consumer who wears cotton products.

Organic cotton that is FairTrade cotton also gives an economic/business guarantee to developing country farmers.

It’s worth noting that organic cotton farms can require more labor for the same amount of cotton (compared to regular cotton), so there are some downsides.

 

Impact Of Organic Cotton On Wildlife & Animals

Organic cotton that is certified should have minor impact on wildlife and animals, especially since synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, bleaches, dyes etc. can’t get into the water, soil and air and harm animals directly, or their habitats.

 

Use Of GMOS With Organic Cotton

As mentioned at the opening of this guide, organic cotton specifically uses natural cotton seeds over GMO cotton seeds.

 

Biodegradability Of Organic Cotton

Cotton itself is a natural fiber that should biodegrade.

Organic cotton that only contains dyes and inks on it that have met strict biodegradability and toxicity rules should therefore biodegrade.

But, it does depend on whether the cotton is completely natural, and whether it is part of a larger piece of clothing for example where it might be partnered with another fibre that isn’t 100% biodegradable.

Whether organic cotton by itself and whether a whole piece of fabric can biodegrade are two separate questions.

 

Read More About Regular Cotton & Organic Cotton

 

Sources

1. https://www.swedishlinens.com/blogs/news/organic-vs-conventional-cotton 

2. https://slate.com/technology/2011/04/hemp-versus-cotton-which-is-better-for-the-environment.html 

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/is-cotton-eco-friendly-sustainable-for-clothing-fabric-textiles/ 

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/organic-cotton-vs-regular-conventional-cotton-differences-which-is-better/  

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-advantages-disadvantages-of-organic-cotton/ 

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-impacts-of-growing-producing-using-cotton/ 

7. https://theconversation.com/gm-crops-can-benefit-organic-farmers-too-51318  

8. http://aboutorganiccotton.org/

Is Cotton Eco Friendly & Sustainable For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

Is Cotton Eco Friendly & Sustainable For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

 

Cotton is one of the most widely and heavily used fibres in clothing, fabric and textile products.

In this short guide, we look at how cotton rates amongst different measures to see how sustainable and eco friendly it really is.

* Note that cotton growing/farming, and processing may differ by country, especially between the first world and developing world countries.

* Different conditions, climates, soils, farming technology, farming methods and other factors can impact how well the cotton fibre grows, and different factories and processing plants for cotton have different procedures.

* Developments and advancements with cotton farming, and use of GMO cotton seeds is allowing new capabilities with cotton production such as increased yields and better drought resistance (amongst other capabilities)

All of these factors can impact the final pros and cons for any particular cotton product.

 

Summary – How Sustainable & Eco Friendly Is Regular Cotton For Clothing, Fabric & Textiles?

There’s no doubt about it – although being one of the most popular fibres, regular cotton is one of the most unsustainable and least eco friendly.

It uses a lot of water, a lot of pesticides and fertilizer, a lot of land, a lot of processing chemicals, and dyes and bleaches (amongst other resources and inputs). It’s responsible for a lot of damage/pollution to the environment, wildlife, and humans as well.

The thing with cotton is that it has such a wide use, it can be produced at scale, it’s heavily subsidised and it’s cheap compared to other fibres. So, it’s practical for a lot of farmers and producers, and is a popular fibre for consumers because of the final product qualities.

It’s worth noting that cotton that is mainly rain fed (instead of heavily irrigated or non drip fed irrigation with fresh water), GMO seed cotton, and new more efficient cotton irrigation technology and other advancements, are providing improvements for us in terms of how sustainable and eco friendly cotton can be.

The efficiency of growing cotton and some resources required to grow it has been getting better in some developed countries over the last few decades.

Organic cotton, hemp, bamboo and TENCEL are among other fibres/fabrics to consider as possibly more sustainable options to cotton.

 

How Much Water Does Cotton Use For Growing & Processing/Manufacturing?

  • It takes about 10,000 liters of water to process just one single kilo of conventional cotton
  • It takes about 2700 liters of water to produce one cotton t shirt

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • [organic cotton can] use far less water to grow since organic cotton growers typically utilize rain far more than irrigation.

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • [an alternate fibre from bamboo] requires 1/3 the amount of water to grow that cotton uses

– nutricare.co

 

  • [comparing cotton and hemp as a fibre…] the cotton plant needs about 50 percent more water per season than hemp, which can grow with little irrigation.
  • When you add processing into the equation, cotton uses more than four times as much water as hemp.

– slate.com

 

In countries like India (on some parts of India), cotton can use more than double the global average of water that it takes to produce/grow cotton. Although, some parts of India are starting to move towards more efficient forms of irrigation like drop fed irrigation too.

 

Carbon Footprint Of Cotton, & Energy Use

  • Global consumption of non-organic cotton releases huge amounts of greenhouse gas … about 220 million tonnes a year. 1 tonne of conventional cotton fiber produces 1.8 tonnes of CO2e.  

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • [compared to hemp] cotton requires less energy to grow and process

– slate.com

 

How Much Pesticide & Fertilizer Does Cotton Use To Grow

  • Conventional cotton has “earned” the title of being the dirtiest crop on earth. It consumes 16% of the world’s insecticides and requires $2 Billion in pesticides each year.

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • [Cotton uses] more than 10 per cent of the world’s pesticides and nearly 25 per cent of the world’s insecticides.

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

  • In India, about 50% of all pesticides used in the country are used in cotton production

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

  • [cotton] is one of the highest nitrogen fertilizer use crops in California at 16% of total nitrogen fertilizer use relative to other crops grown

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

  • In Australia, where nitrous oxide emissions have increased 130 percent since 1990 due to fertilizer usage, it’s estimated that a third of the nitrogen applied to cultivated fields is lost before serving any purpose. 
  • When these fertilizers are applied haphazardly, large amounts of nitrous oxide—which has a GWP (global warming potential) of 310—can be lost to the atmosphere
  • Supporters of cotton though say that cotton lint provides a cotton sink for some of this nitrogen and nitrous oxide emission

– slate.com

 

Cotton, & Soil Health & Land Degradation

  • [cotton] needs approximately twice as much territory as hemp per ton of finished textile

– slate.com

 

  • heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers have potential to deplete soil over the long term when cotton is grown

 

  • cotton production has depleted and degraded the soil in many areas. Most cotton is grown on well-established fields, but their exhaustion leads to expansion into new areas and the attendant destruction of habitat.

– worldwildlife.org

 

The Yield Of Cotton, & Efficiency To Process Cotton

  • [an average yield from one farmer might be] from 2 to 4 tons (4400 to 8800 lbs.) of cotton per hectare, or 0,8 to 1,6 tons (1760 to 3527 lbs.) per acre. Keep in mind that 1 ton = 1000 kg = 2.200 lbs. and 1 hectare = 2,47 acres = 10.000 square meters.
  • the expected yield of ginned cotton is 0,66 to 1,33 tons (1455 to 2932 lbs.) per hectare or 589 to 1187 lbs. per acre. Keep in mind that there can be significant deviations from these figures.

– wikifarmer.com

 

  • Over the last 20 years [up to 2017], Australia’s cotton yield has increased 38%

– cottonaustralia.com.au

 

  • [as a comparison of cotton to hemp], Hemp for fibre will be harvested as a fibre only crop or a dual grain and fibre crop. In a dual-purpose scenario, stalk yield estimates are 0.75 to 1.5 tonnes/acre. In crops grown and managed solely for fibre, average yields of 2.5 to 3 tonnes/acre are expected with a range from 1 to 6 tonnes per acre.

– gov.mb.ca

 

  • [as a comparison of cotton to bamboo], Bamboo grows very densely, its clumping nature enables a lot of it to be grown in a comparatively small area, easing pressure on land use. With average yields for bamboo of up to 60 tonnes per hectare greatly exceeding the average yield of 20 tonnes for most trees and the average yield of 2 tonnes per hectare for cotton, bamboo’s high yield per hectare becomes very significant.

– wikipedia.org

 

How Effectively Is The Cotton Plant Used?

Quite effectively – it is used for both the lint (for fibre), and the cotton seeds for cottonseed oil.

 

How Many Chemicals Does Cotton Use In The Processing Stage?

This is where cotton can be very damaging.

Unless it’s certified cotton (certified not to use synthetic chemicals), cotton can use a lot of chemicals, bleaches, dyes and other substances during the cotton processing stage.

 

Pollution Of Land, Air & Water By Cotton Growing & Processing

Conventional cotton growing can use a lot of pesticide and fertilizers.

Production can also use chemicals, bleaches, dyes and other synthetic toxic substances.

All of the above substances and solids can get into the soil, water and air either when they are used, or when they are discharged or dumped.

For example, pesticide and fertilizer can run off into the soil, into groundwater tables, and into the ocean and freshwater streams and rivers.

 

Impact Of Cotton On Humans & Human Health

There’s several human health and other human issues related to cotton growing and production, such as:

  • The amount of water that cotton uses means that this water (if it comes from an irrigated freshwater source) can’t be given to people in developing countries for drinking water. India is a good example of where this happens
  • Cancer – Global organizations estimate thousands of people exposed to the chemicals used in non-organic cotton production die of cancer, poisoning, and miscarriages each year. Many also suffer from birth defects and other diseases such as asthma. The exposure to these toxic chemicals is taking its toll mostly in developing countries, such as India and Uzbekistan.
  • The majority of cotton farmers and workers live in developing countries, work extremely long hours, are exposed to poisonous substances daily and earning very little in wages. In fact, many of them have unsustainable debts because they are unable to keep up with employer demands. Other factors such as climate change, decreasing prices of cotton and tough competition from farmers in rich countries don’t make it any easier. 

– swedishlinens.com

 

Impact Of Cotton On Wildlife & Animals

Pesticides, fertilizers, production chemicals, bleaches and dyes all have the ability to harm aquatic animals and other animals.

 

Biodegradability Of Cotton

Cotton is a natural fibre, which means it is biodegradable by itself. But, cotton can be combined with other fibres into a fabric or piece of clothing which might not be very biodegradable.

You also have to consider the chemicals on that piece of clothing which might not be all natural.

 

Use Of GMOs In Cotton Growing

  • In the U.S., 93 percent of all cotton currently grown is GMO cotton.

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

Option For Organic Cotton

Cotton does have an organic option in organic cotton which doesn’t use GMO seeds, and doesn’t use synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or processing chemicals.

You have to make sure to get certified organic cotton though to know exactly what you are getting.

 

Sources

1. https://www.swedishlinens.com/blogs/news/organic-vs-conventional-cotton 

2. https://www.nutricare.co/media/2016/11/29/bamboo-vs-cotton 

3. https://slate.com/technology/2011/04/hemp-versus-cotton-which-is-better-for-the-environment.html 

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-impacts-of-growing-producing-using-cotton/ 

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-advantages-disadvantages-of-organic-cotton/  

6. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton 

7. https://wikifarmer.com/cotton-harvest-yields/ 

8. https://cottonaustralia.com.au/cotton-library/statistics 

9. https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/production/print,hemp-production.html 

10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo_textile#Yield_and_land_use  

11. https://slate.com/technology/2008/01/if-i-want-to-help-the-environment-should-i-buy-wool-or-cotton.html