• Joyce

Viscose: the False Promise [TEXTILE SERIES 1]


In recent years, the fashion industry has witnessed the popularity boom of a newcomer — viscose. Also known as rayon, viscose is a semi-synthetic fabric that is often used to substitute silk and has grown to become the third most commonly used textile fiber in the world. Viscose has been marketed as a biodegradable, eco-friendly fabric because it is made from wood pulp, but its current hazardous manufacturing process and high demand for timber will need much reform before its reality can catch up with its reputation.


黏胶纤维,又称人造丝,是一种半合成织物,通常用来代替丝绸,而在时装界已成为第三常用的纺织纤维。由于黏胶纤维的原材料是木浆,因此被称为一种环保织物,但是它的有害生产过程和对木材的高消耗远远赶不上“环保”的名称。


THE UGLY TRUTH



The source of the wood pulp to manufacture viscose comes from the cellulose of fast-growing, regenerative trees, many of which are found in tropical forests.


Every year, 150 million trees are logged to create fabric, and because of poor regulation of wood pulp sourcing, many ancient and endangered forests are at risk from excessive logging for viscose production.

After the raw materials are collected, the cellulose undergoes a chemically-intensive process that involves hazardous chemicals such as carbon disulfide, hydrogen sulfide, sodium hydroxide, and sulphuric acid. Carbon disulfide is the most notorious of the chemicals, which can cause coronary disease, neurological and psychological disorders, and even insanity in workers that are subject to high exposure. Most of the viscose manufacturers function in an “open-loop” model, in which chemicals are lost during the process into the surrounding environment (around 30% of carbon disulfide is lost to the environment).


A large portion of the hazardous waste is discharged as wastewater into adjacent bodies of water.

Workers from two of the largest Chinese viscose plants have admitted that sewage was directly discharged into China’s largest freshwater lake, Poyang Lake, without any processing and that the desulfurization facilities were only turned on during inspections.



残酷的真相


制造黏胶纤维的木浆来自快速生长的树木的纤维素,其中许多是热带森林中的树木。每年有1.5亿棵树木被砍伐来制造织物,并且因木浆采购的监管不善,许多古老且濒危的森林正面临过度砍伐的风险。使用的纤维素会再经过大量的化学处理,其中涉及的有害化学物质如二硫化碳、硫化氢、氢氧化钠和硫酸。二硫化碳是最有危害的化学物质,导致生产工人患上冠状动脉疾病、神经系统和心理疾病、甚至精神错乱。而因大多数黏胶生产商都采用“开放”模式运作,这些化学物质不只影响直接接触它们的工人,还会扩散到周围环境中(约30%的二硫化碳将流失到环境中)。绝大部分化学物质都通过废水排放到相邻的水体中,中国两家最大的黏胶工厂的工人都曾承认脱硫设施仅在检查时打开使用,平时污水未经任何处理就直接排入了临近的鄱阳湖内。


IS TRANSPARENCY ENOUGH?


One major step for transforming viscose production standards is transparency in brand supply chains. Many popular brands, such as H&M, Asos, and Zara, have taken this step and publicly released a list of their viscose suppliers, whose violations of environmental standards and human rights can then be directly linked with these retailers. Contrary to other textile industries, the viscose industry is dominated by very few producers (10 companies control 70% of global viscose production). This makes it relatively easy for brands to pressure irresponsible manufacturers to clean up their act, providing an opportunity for rapid and transformational change. However, Natasha Hurley, campaign manager at Changing Markets, is not so positive. She has noticed that the increased transparency of brands “hasn’t translated into the factories they’re sourcing from being to a standard that we would expect.” Additionally, Hurley believes that the pressure fast-fashion retailers put on their producers for faster production and lower costs is “creating an unsustainable situation both on a social and environmental front.”


For brands that have not improved their transparency, the IPE Green Supply Chain Map is doing it for them. The initiative by Beijing-based environmental research organization The Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs and New York-based international environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council allows users to see how brand suppliers are contributing to air and water pollution in China. The tool identifies the suppliers’ name and location, emissions data, waste and water consumption, and environmental violations while linking the manufacturer to the brand it supplies.



供应链的透明度


改变黏胶纤维生产标准的主要步骤之一是增强品牌供应链的透明度。 H&M,Asos和Zara等许多品牌已公开发布了其黏胶纤维的供应商,而他们供应商的违反环境标准和人权的行为就会直接连累到这些服装品牌的声誉。与其他纺织工业相比,黏胶纤维行业的生产者很少,10家生产商控制着全球黏胶纤维产量的70%。这意味着品牌可以相对容易地向不负责的制造商施加压力,要求其提高环保标准。但是,非政府组织Changing Markets的经理Natasha Hurley并不那么乐观,她发现品牌增强透明度并没有成为对他们供应商的任何实际行动或要求。此外,Hurley认为快时尚品牌对生产商生产速度更快、成本更低的要求就已经产生了一个在环境和社会方面不可持续的理念。


服装品牌的透明度不仅掌控在自己的手中,消费者也可以通过别的渠道了解品牌的供应商对环境的污染。其中之一是一个由北京公众环境研究中心和纽约自然资源保护协会创造的“环境地图”,这个地图上显示在中国不同品牌的供应商的位置、排放数据、水的消耗以及违反环境的规定。

环境地图可在此处查看:https://www.ipe.org.cn/MapSCMBrand/BrandMap.aspx?q=6



SPOTLIGHT ON CHINA


After the decline of viscose in the 1990s, Asia led the resurgence of this textile until now. India, Indonesia, and China are the three biggest producers of viscose, with China producing 66% of the global supply. China’s environmental laws have assumed a stronger grip in recent years. 2015 witnessed the first revision to the 1989 Environmental Protection Law, which was loosely enforced. Subsequent years saw further revisions including higher transparency standards, more severe legal repercussions, and stronger implementation on the local level. Although Chinese viscose plants are riddled with past scandals and allegations of corruption, worker safety hazards, and poor waste management, some are beginning to address their harmful production processes as shown by completing audits by the Canadian NGO Canopy. Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s Executive Director, commented positively on the world’s third largest viscose producer, “Tangshan Sanyou’s documented progress on raw material sourcing transparency, their support for landscape conservation planning, and their leadership in developing a new viscose product made from post-consumer recycled textiles are all clear demonstrations of the company’s strong commitment to CanopyStyle.”


在中国的生产


中国、印度和印度尼西亚是黏胶纤维的三大生产国,而中国占全球供应量的66%。中国1989就立了环境保护法,但是一直到五年前都没有充分执行。自从2015,中国的环境保护法就一直在改善,包括提高透明度标准、加强法定处罚以及本地法律的实施。虽然这个行业在中国有过许多工人安全问题、废物管理不善以及贿赂的丑闻,但近年来有些工厂开始走向更环保的道路,比如接受加拿大非政府组织Canopy的审查。Canopy执行董事Nicole Rycroft对全球第三大黏胶生产商的评价非常积极:“唐山三友在原材料采购透明性,对环境保护规划的支持以及利用消费后回收的黏胶再制新产品的方面都是该公司对CanopyStyle承诺的明确体现。”


THE FUTURE OF VISCOSE



There has been multiple attempts at reforming the production of viscose, to varying degrees of success. Viscose made from bamboo, for example, only solved the need for wood pulp but did not address the leakage of chemicals in the manufacturing process, and thus did not provide a feasible alternative.

Lyocell fabric, marketed by Austrian company Lenzing as Tencil, is produced in a closed-loop system in which 99% of chemicals are recovered and reused. This form of production targets the major issue with viscose, the leakage of harmful chemicals, and is an ideal prototype for future manufacturing processes. Ultimately, viscose has the potential to become a sustainable textile if the source of wood pulp and process of production reach adequate standards.


Both governments and NGOs are capable of regulating production, increasing transparency, and raising awareness of this textile, but as consumers, we are also responsible for understanding the environmental costs of products and wielding our purchasing power with caution.

黏胶的未来


许多公司尝试过替代或改善黏胶的生产,例如用竹子替代木浆,但更换原材料并没有解决加工过程中化学物质的严重泄漏。另一种可能是由奥地利Lenzing公司研发出的一种黏胶纤维Lyocell,生产Lyocell的过程中99%的化学物质都会被回收再利用,以减少对环境以及工作人员的危害,这也是一种黏胶未来可能的发展趋向。最终,如果原材料来源和加工过程达到适当标准,黏胶纤维就可能成为一种可持续的纺织品。当然,政府和非政府组织改变黏胶工厂的能力更大,但是作为消费者的我们也有责任了解一个产品对环境以及人类的代价并且谨慎购买。


[FURTHER READING] Reports by Changing Markets Foundation:

https://changingmarkets.org/portfolio/dirty-fashion/


SOURCES:

  1. https://goodonyou.eco/material-guide-viscose-really-better-environment/

  2. http://changingmarkets.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/CHANGING_MARKETS_DIRTY_FASHION_REPORT_SPREAD_WEB.pdf

  3. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jun/13/hm-zara-marks-spencer-linked-polluting-viscose-factories-asia-fashion

  4. https://www.sgtgroup.net/textile-quality-management-blog/china-environmental-policy

  5. https://www.devex.com/news/mapping-the-environmental-impacts-of-china-s-textile-industry-91905

  6. https://canopyplanet.org/tangshan-sanyou-completes-its-second-canopystyle-audit-assessing-viscose-raw-material-sourcing/

  7. https://www.tencel.com/news-and-events/lenzing-unveils-refibra-breakthrough-technology-strengthening-their-commitment-to-the-circular-economy-in-textiles

Follow us!

true Logo.jpeg
  • instagram_icon_zwsgreen_edited_edited
  • LinkedIn Zero Waste Shanghai
  • facebook_icon_zwsgreen_edited
  • ZeroWasteShanghaiOfficial
  • ZeroWasteShanghai

©2020 by Zero Waste Shanghai