RAYON (VISCOSE)

CATEGORY:

MANUFACTURED

SUB-CATEGORY:

NATURAL POLYMER

About

Regenerated Cellulose fibre.
Viscose, which is also commonly known as rayon when it is made into a fabric, is a type of semi-synthetic fabric. The name of this substance comes from the process that's used to make it; at one stage, rayon is a viscous, honey-like liquid that later settles into a solid form. The primary ingredient of rayon is wood pulp, but this organic ingredient goes through a lengthy production process before it becomes a wearable fabric. Because of these attributes, it's hard to determine whether rayon is a synthetic or natural fabric; while its source material is organic, the process this organic material is subjected to is so strenuous that the result is essentially a synthetic substance.

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Where it grows / Where it is made

Top countries: China - India - Pakistan - Indonesia.

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Applications

Clothing, household items, industrial belts, silk alternatives.

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Impact on the environment

Since rayon is made with substances derived from plants, it isn't inherently a pollutant. Cellulose itself is a natural substance that is naturally recycled by automatic processes in the ecosystem.
Rayon, however, doesn't simply consist of cellulose. A number of toxic chemicals are used in the rayon production process, and it's hard to dispose of these substances (contaminated water) properly once the manufacturing process is complete.
Furthermore, extracting pulp wastes about 70 percent of a tree, and the remaining chemically-contaminated tree material is usually indiscriminately dumped.

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More sustainable alternatives

Lyocell

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End of life possibilities

Can be disposed of using all end of life opportunities. Viscose is 100% cellulose and as such it is biodegradable. The fibre has also the potential for re-use and remanufacture. Where used as 100% viscose 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 may be reduced. Ideally viscose should not be sent to landfill. The re-use of the non-woven viscose fabrics will depend on the way they have been manufactured.

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Our opinion

If a brand isn’t transparent about the sustainable status of their viscose, go for another one.