This article will tell you whether lyocell is sustainable. Then, we assess its viability, potential, and shortcomings.
The top of your list should include Lyocell (and especially TENCEL™; more on that later) if you’re looking for the green fabric supernova. However, its accolades go far beyond the realm of sustainability. Being silky smooth lyocell feels great against the skin, drapes beautifully, and is lightweight, highly breathable, antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, and wrinkle-resistant.
Follow along as I take you on a journey to determine whether Lyocell is sustainable, what its pros and cons are, and whether or not I advise you to add this fiber to your wardrobe. Let’s get started!
Here is more knowledge about lyocell fabric:
Is Lyocell Sustainable?
Let’s start with the good. Why is lyocell regarded as a sustainable fabric?
Eucalyptus trees, as anyone who has any knowledge of them, can attest, grow quickly. In addition, they can be grown on land that is unsuitable for other types of farming and doesn’t need a lot of irrigation, pesticides, or other special techniques.
For TENCEL™ lyocell fabric, trees are only obtained from sustainably managed forests that have earned the FSC certification, protecting against the risk of deforestation.
Extremely toxic chemicals and heavy metals are not necessary for the production process. Those that are, are usually reused in what’s referred to as a “closed-loop process” so they don’t get dumped into the environment.
The process to create lyocell uses much less water than other fabrics, too. Lenzing AG, one of the largest producers of TENCEL&trade, can reuse up to 99.5% of the water and dissolving agents in a system that produces almost no waste.
In light of this, the most well-known and reputable lyocell and modal fabric manufacturer is an Austrian company that produces under the TENCEL™ brand. Because they were the original sustainable lyocell pioneers, you might refer to them as Lenzing OG.
Lenzing is also a leader in the development of new REFIBRA™ technology. By 2024, any lyocell produced using this technology will have up to 50% post-consumer cotton waste. They join other manufacturers, such as Simplifi Fabric, in utilizing environmentally friendly sourcing and production methods that others don’t.
Like with anything labeled “sustainable” or “eco-friendly”, there are always risks of greenwashing.
If you’re a sustainable fashion advocate, do a little extra research to see where your favorite brands source their lyocell from and if they mention how it is processed. The production of Lyocell ought to be transparent even though the fabric itself might not be.
However, if done properly, all of these elements—along with its high tensile strength, ease of dyeing, and durability when compared to similar types of rayon fabrics—are a recipe for a significantly more sustainable version of the silk-like, drapey fabric.
How Sustainable is the Manufacturing of Lyocell Fabrics?
Lyocell fabric production requires a lot of energy, which could have detrimental effects on the environment if fossil fuels are used as the primary energy source there. A negligible portion of the dissolvent solution used in manufacturing can be discharged as non-hazardous liquid waste, but it can be recycled almost entirely.
How Sustainable is the Transportation of Lyocell Fabrics?
Due to the emissions from shipping and receiving vehicles, transportation can be a carbon-intensive stage in the life cycle of products made with lyocell fabrics.
Lyocell fabrics usually travel from forests (where the raw materials for lyocell are grown) to processing factories, then sorting facilities, retail outlets, and consumer residences, before ending up in recycling facilities or landfills.
In the life-cycle of lyocell clothes, transportation typically occurs as below:
- From forests where lyocell raw materials are grown to the lyocell fiber manufacturing location
- From the lyocell fabrics manufacturing location to the clothing manufacturing location
- From the clothing manufacturing location to sorting centers/physical shops
- From sorting centers/physical shops to the consumer’s house
- From the consumer’s house to the centers for recycling/ disposing
It’s extremely rare for lyocell raw materials to be grown, processed, sewn and sold in one town, country, or even continent. Lyocell fabrics are more frequently shipped over long distances in a variety of vehicles.
How Sustainable is the Usage of Lyocell Fabrics?
Lyocell fabrics are extremely durable—so strong that they can even be used to make conveyor belts—and can be used to make clothing that will last for many years. Since you won’t need to replace your clothing as frequently and won’t use fewer resources to create a new one, clothing that lasts a long time is typically more environmentally friendly.
How Sustainable is the End-of-Life of Lyocell Fabrics?
The end-of-life stage for lyocell fabric is generally sustainable because it is reusable, biodegradable, and compostable.
- Lyocell Fabric Is Biodegradable
Lyocell fabric is 100% cellulose, making it a biodegradable material. Thus, at the end of the fabric’s life, there are three available options:
- All of the end-of-life options include landfill.
It takes about two months for lyocell products to decompose, contrary to plastic-based items that could take up space in the landfill for up to 100 years.
- Lyocell Fibers Can Be Recycled and Upcycled
Reuse and remanufacturing of cellulose fibers is a possibility. As a starting point for the manufacture of regenerated cellulose fiber, 100% lyocell fabrics, for instance, can reenter the fashion industry.
The end-of-life options are more constrained when lyocell fibers are combined with other materials. If other synthetic fibers are added to the blend, the final product is no longer biodegradable.
Is Lyocell Natural Or Synthetic?
Lyocell is a material with natural origins that is processed with synthetic materials, fitting in between natural fibers like wool, hemp, cotton, and wool and synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon. We have compared lyocell and other fabrics, such as Lyocell Vs Tencel, and Lyocell Vs Cotton.
If fully synthetic fibers aren’t your cup of tea (relatable) or you’re looking for vegan substitutes, Lyocell may be for you. It’s also sometimes referred to as a semi-synthetic fiber or as a processed cellulosic fiber.
What is Lyocell’s Environmental Impact?
Possibly the most environmentally friendly fabric is lyocell. Furthermore, it is processed using a low energy, low water, closed-loop system that recycles over 99.5% of the chemicals and solvents used in production, with the remaining 0.5% being discharged as non-hazardous effluent. The product is not only sourced from organic and renewable sources.
Additionally, the fabric is very long-lasting and highly durable (conveyor belts use it). Additionally, because your product is 100% biodegradable, you won’t need to worry when the time comes to dispose of it. As mentioned earlier, no pesticides, fertilizers, or irrigation are needed for the trees used to make lyocell.
Conclusion: is Lyocell Sustainable?
With good reason, Lyocell is a material that has swept the sustainable fashion industry.
It’s one of the most environmentally friendly semi-synthetic fabrics available, in addition to being strong and comfortable. Natural materials are used in its construction, and no toxic chemicals are used in its manufacture. All in all, we are in favor of lyocell.
In short, if you’re looking to invest in an environmentally friendly garment that looks and feels great, especially in the summer, then you cannot do much better than lyocell.
Is Lyocell More Sustainable Than Cotton?
Tencel lyocell is better for the environment than other similar fabrics, but not as sustainable as top-tier fabrics like organic linen or recycled cotton. Tencel is produced with less water and energy than regular cotton.
Are Tencel and Lyocell the Same?
TENCEL is simply a brand name for a type of lyocell (like Lenzing AG, a textile company in Austria, that developed the Band-Aid to bandages. There are many types of lyocell, but TENCEL™ lyocell tops as one of the most innovative types of lyocell.