Its properties could compete with warm wool, it is easy to confuse it with delicate silk, and it measures up to soft cotton. Viscose, because it is in question, is favourite fabric of many of us. It is produced from plant fibres and it decomposes quickly, so theoretically it seems to be pretty fair fabric, but...
Every "but" that at least for a moment pops up in our heads while selecting fabric for our collections awakens in us the spirit to act. We immediately start thinking about whether we can do something better. How is it in the case of viscose? Yes, we can. Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce you to its ecological counterpart – ECOVERO™ viscose.
How is conventional viscose made?
It is worthwhile to start with taking a look at the conventional viscose production process while pointing out the differences between conventional viscose and the one certified by Lenzing™, i.e. ECOVERO™ viscose. We have identified the critical moments in the conventional viscose production process to draw attention to the advantages of its ecological counterpart.
Cellulose is one of the main components of plants and ... our clothes. In the textile industry, it is obtained mainly from trees and, in processes similar to paper production, it is turned into yarn. But let’s do it step by step: the felled tree is shredded into cuttings and then into sheet-formed pulp that, as a result of contact with sodium hydroxide, acquires properties that allow for further processing (sodium hydroxide, or sodium lye, bleaches the cellulose fibres). At the next stage, the sheets are transformed into a dense, continuous liquid which, when poured into sulphuric acid, solidifies and turns into fibres.
Since we already know the conventional viscose production process, let us think at what stage may "but" appear.
BUT what about tree cultivation?
The first question that may come to mind when looking in detail (and chronologically) at the process of viscose production concerns plants cultivation. Those used to produce the cellulose mentioned above are eucalyptus, beech and spruce. In the case of conventional viscose (i.e. without Lenzing™ certification), forest nurseries are not inspected and there is no requirement to cultivate with respect for the environment. ECOVERO™ viscose is made from cellulose fibres from certified forest nurseries only, which are managed sustainably.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, as much as half of the world's forests are degraded or processed. Many of them are also illegally exploited. This forest „management” has its roots in the conviction, dating back to the 19th century, that trees (and everything that surrounds them) are only a raw material. The forest is the sum of the products that can be taken out of it: cubes of wood, boxes of forest fruits, tons of meat from wild animals.
The forest nurseries from which ECOVERO™ viscose is made are controlled by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).
BUT what about water consumption and CO2 emissions?
Let us be clear – it is impossible to create fabric without using water and with no carbon emissions. The sooner we realise this fact, the better. This will allow us to look at the problem sanely and ask questions about what can be done to reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions.
You can use a closed water cycle, for example. Just like Lenzing™. This means that water that has been used once in the whole process is treated and reused in it. And again. In the ECOVERO™ viscose production process, water is used efficiently, which reduces water consumption by up to 50% compared to conventional viscose production. For example, for one T-shirt, it is 12.5 litres less water. The whole process, due to its saving and well-thought-out use of raw materials, also generates a much smaller carbon footprint than conventional viscose production. This means up to 50% less CO2 emissions.
BUT what about chemicals?
We have started with the viscose production process and it was not accidental. We have also mentioned an important moment in the process of creating this fabric – the use of sodium lye – the alkali that bleeches the fibers. It is a highly corrosive substance (its storage requires appropriate protection), which in contact with human skin causes necrosis coliquativa. If it gets into the soil or water, it causes contamination of the ground: it is dangerous for people and animals. ECOVERO™ viscose whitening takes place without this substance.
Conventional viscose due to its biodegradability and use of the plant-based fibres in its production can be considered as natural fabric (although it undergoes „artificial” manufacturing processes). This does not mean, however, that we cannot demand more – and come up with a „but”. If we can use an improved, more sustainable version of it, what is stopping us from doing so? ECOVERO™ viscose creates a great opportunity for the fashion industry – to do it in a sustainable, less environmentally damaging way. We believe that more clothing companies will realise this and start using it.
Come up with your own „BUT...”
But how can we be sure that the circumstances in which viscose is produced are harmless people and the environment? There are two solutions:
- You can track it on your own (we have been encouraging you to take an interest in how your clothes are made for a long time now, for example within the Who made your clothes? action). However, this will not be possible if the manufacturers do not provide reliable information about the production processes and if we do not know how such processes should proceed.
- You can trust the certificates. In the case of viscose, it is the Lenzing™ certificate (viscose created in accordance with Lenzing Group standards is then named ECOVERO™). In addition to the original solutions introduced by Lenzing™ – such as giving sodium lye – the company puts its bet on a transparent production process that can be controlled at every stage: from growing the trees to obtaining finished viscose.
LENZING™ ECOVERO™ viscose is also certified by the EU Ecolabel – this label is awarded to products and services that have a much lower environmental impact (compared to their conventional counterparts).
Last but not least, here come some facts for those who prefer numbers:
- The ECOVERO™ viscose T-shirt decomposition process takes 3 months, the polyester one 200 years. This means that before the latter disappears from the earth's surface (not without harmful consequences), the viscose T-shirt would decompose 800 times.