Austrian fiber firm Lenzing achieved a technology breakthrough that further cements its commitment to championing fashion’s circular economy: The industry’s first scaled production of virgin “Tencel Lyocell x Refibra” fibers using post-consumer cotton waste.
Moving forward, Tencel Lyocell fibers with Refibra technology, which are 100 percent bio-based and produced in a closed-loop process, will feature up to 30 percent of recycled raw material content that blends 10 percent of postconsumer cotton waste with preconsumer cotton waste, the firm said. Lenzing added that its five-year vision is to produce the technology with up to 50 percent recycled content from postconsumer cotton waste, and said it aims to “make textile waste recycling as common as paper recycling.” It’s a lofty and important goal for an industry that generates as much as 4 percent of the world’s waste each year, equating to 92 million tons.
Taking a phased approach, Lenzing announced its first Refibra technology upgrade in September, which increased the composition of pulp made from upcycled cotton scraps collected from the garment manufacturing process up to 30 percent. And now in its second phase, adding postconsumer cotton waste, the upgrade “poses tremendous business opportunities and helps drive greater developments for circular economy,” the firm said.
Florian Heubrandner, vice president of global business management textiles at Lenzing, explained that consumer demand for a cleaner and greener fashion industry is helping drive the development of new technologies that incorporate recyclability and reusability. “For several years, we have witnessed a rise of eco-consciousness amongst consumers. Consumers have been demanding more sustainable product options in their shopping list. If a company wants to truly improve its sustainability practice, it needs to reexamine its current business model and consider introducing new products or technologies with recyclability and reusability in mind. At Lenzing, sustainability is part of our DNA, and we will continue to stand at the industry forefront to assist businesses with the implementation of eco-practices in their operations.”
On the tip of everyone’s tongue — brands and consumers alike — is the ongoing commitment to the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which in this case, supports SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. And Lenzing added that its vision includes the recycling of fabrics and garments from its own materials. ”Being able to use discarded garments consisting of a wider range of materials will greatly enlarge the raw material basis for textile recycling. This innovation is a groundbreaking step towards tackling the global issue of textile waste disposal. At the same time, it reduces the extraction of wood as a raw material — and relieves the pressure on global forest ecosystems.”
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