Regenerated Cellulose fibre.
Lyocell fibres are produced through an environmentally friendly solvent process. There is very little solvent loss during the process and the water consumption is a fraction of that associated with the production of cotton. Lyocell fibres are strong with a circular cross section and a smooth surface. While some variants have a tendency to fibrillate, this property is used to good advantage in the development of specialised surface effects. Fibrillation resistant variants are also available using similar technologies to those used in the treatment of easy care cotton.
Where it grows / Where it is made
Main producer is the Austrian company Lenzing AG.
They have a variety of different factories in Europe, a great deal of their production has moved overseas to countries like China and Indonesia. While some Tencel is still produced in countries like Austria, the United Kingdom, and the USA, the majority of this fabric is now produced in China.
Mostly as woven fabrics. Currently lyocell fibres are not widely used in corporate clothing. As a cellulose based fibre it is able to provide many of the attributes associated with cotton and is a strong fibre. Ideally suited for woven fabrics used in shirting fabrics, lyocell is also available in non-woven fabrics that would find applications in interfacings in suiting. Applications in leisure wear (polo shirts), knitwear and shirts.
Impact on the environment
Compared to other cellulose textiles, lyocell is much better for the environment. While the process of producing this fabric is similar to that which is used to make rayon and other cellulose fabrics, production of Tencel doesn't introduce any toxins into the environment if it is done correctly.
Unlike similar textiles, lyocell production employs a "closed loop" extraction process, which means that the same batch of amine oxide is used to extract multiple batches of Tencel. For comparison, production of viscose rayon involves a number of different chemical processes that do not employ a closed loop system, and these chemicals are then introduced into the environment in the form of contaminated water.
It is, however, important to remember that lyocell is made from trees, and a great deal of tree material is wasted in the production of this fabric. If trees for Tencel production are not grown sustainably, production of this material could have a negative environmental impact, and not all Tencel producers are guaranteed to follow the sustainable closed-loop extraction model.
More sustainable alternatives
End of life possibilities
Can be disposed of using all end of life opportunities. Lyocell is 100% cellulose and as such it is biodegradable. The fibre has also the potential for re-use and remanufacture. Where used as 100% lyocell there is the possibility of using the fabrics as a raw material for regenerated cellulose fibre production. When present in blends, the end of life options are reduced. The re-use of the non-woven lyocell fabrics will depend on the way they have been manufactured. Low fibrillation variants of lyocell may be resistant to the regeneration processes and therefore may not be suitable feedstock for these processes. These low fibrillation fibres are also considered to be more resistant to biodegradation. Composting, incineration and landfill can all be used as end of life options.
Tencel lyocell is a good replacement for cotton or silk in everything from shirts to underwear. It’s breathable, absorbs moisture, and is soft on the skin. Opt for Tencel over viscose and rayon, which are typically less sustainable.