The last thing you think of when it comes to wood products is probably lyocell. Is the first thing paper? How about a desk? Tons of items contain wood but did you think it would be in your clothing?
WHAT IS LYOCELL?
Lyocell is the generic name for this man-made fiber. It’s derived from natural cellulose wood pulp and is found in many clothing items. Lyocell is better known under its brand name Tencel ®, trademarked by Austrian company Lenzing.
For the duration of this post I will continue to refer to it by its generic name.
Lyocell is 100% biodegradable and consists of Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood pulp. It shares the same family as rayon and modal, however it is considered the eco-friendly option among the family. Processing lyocell contains less toxic chemicals. A solvent spinning technique is used, preventing the cellulose from undergoing any significant chemical changes.
It shares many properties with other cellulosic fibers. Some of the main characteristics include its soft, absorbent, strength. Whether its wet or dry, lyocell retains its strength. It’s also resistant to wrinkles.
It’s versatile; machine washing or dry cleaning are two options for care of the product. It drapes well, dyes in many colors and can simulate a variety of textures, such as suede, leather and silk.
WHERE IS IT FOUND?
You can find this product in just about anything. From from clothing to cars, hence its versatile characteristic.
Staple fibers are in clothing such as denim, underwear, casual wear and towels. Filament fibers are in items that are silkier in appearance, such as men’s dress shirts.
The fiber blends with a variety of other fibers, including cotton, polyester, linen and wool. It’s common for clothing to be a blend of lyocell and another fiber.
WHAT ARE THE POSITIVES?
Derived from natural cellulose wood pulp, lyocell is 100% biodegradable. It’s a renewable source, taking up less land and water compared to materials such as cotton.
A closed-loop system ensures virtually all the chemicals used during production are recycled. Hence, dramatically reducing wastewater emissions.
WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVES?
Depending on the producer, the fiber can contain petrochemical derivatives. This is added during production and can include during dying and texturizing the fiber. This is a big concern for those who want to minimize their exposure to chemicals or have a sensitivity.
However, the biggest concern is surrounding deforestation. Meeting supply demands means forests depletion. As the demand increases so does deforestation. Because of the nature of the source, trees, it takes much longer to replenish the forests than it does to take them down. Concerned environmentalist believe rain forest could be gone within 100 years.
On the lesser scale of negatives, lyocell is reportedly more expensive to produce than other eco fabrics.
Lyocell is the better option among the semi-synthetic fibers. However, consumers should still be concerned with their consumption:
- Buy recycled – because there are concerns about deforestation, if you can buy clothing from a second hand store.
- Find a second home – although it’s 100% biodegradable doesn’t give you a free pass to throw clothing in the landfill. Give unwanted items to friends and family or donate to the local thrift store. If the item is in bad shape, responsibly dispose of it by looking up a recycling center near you.
- Buy what you love and buy it to last – invest in clothing that you love. Build a wardrobe that is meant to last. We can break the cycle of over consumption and waste, and this rule applies whether we are buying natural fibers or synthetic ones.