Lyocell Fabric- The Environmentally Sustainable Choice

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Lyocell Fabric- The Environmentally Sustainable Choice
Sheets, towels, drapes and upholstery fabrics made with lyocell offer combined softness, strength and easy care. This has boosted its demand in home furnishings categories.

Lyocell is a type of rayon fabric that is made from wood pulp through a solvent-spinning process that produces an exceptionally strong fiber material. Compared to other fabrics like cotton and polyester, lyocell has several sustainability advantages that are making it a popular eco-friendly choice for clothing manufacturers and consumers alike.


The Production Process of Lyocell


Lyocell fabric is made from purified wood pulp obtained primarily from sustainable eucalyptus and pine tree sources. In the production process, the wood pulp is dissolved and then forced through a "spinneret" into a coagulation bath where it solidifies into fibers. A dissolving agent called N-methylmorpholine N-oxide (or NMMO) is used to dissolve the cellulose from the wood pulp. This solvent is then recovered at over 99% purity for reuse in the process.


The use of this closed-loop solvent recovery system is a major advantage of lyocell production over conventional viscose rayon, which utilizes hazardous chemicals like carbon disulfide. The end result is a highly renewable fiber material with minimal environmental impact. Lyocell production facilities also minimize water usage in the manufacturing process and ensure wastewater is safely treated before release. Overall, this solvent-based method allows for high-quality, continuous production of long, strong cellulose fibers from natural resources.


Properties and Uses of Lyocell Fabric


Lyocell fabric has several beneficial properties that make it suitable for a wide range of apparel and non-apparel applications. Some key properties of lyocell include:


- Strength: lyocell fabric are incredibly strong, in fact almost as strong as cotton. This makes lyocell a good choice for durable clothing that can withstand heavy wear.


- Absorbency: Lyocell fibers are highly absorbent and quick-drying. This property makes lyocell ideal for uses like towels, medical fabrics, and even diapers.


- Softness: Despite its strength, lyocell has a very soft hand-feel similar to cotton. This softness enhances comfort in clothing.


- Breathability: Thanks to its absorbency, lyocell is very breathable - allowing air circulation to keep skin dry.


- Washability: Lyocell maintains its shape and properties even after many washes. It is easier to care for than other synthetics.


With these properties, lyocell is now used widely in clothing like t-shirts, underwear, and even dress shirts that require a luxurious yet eco-friendly fabric. It is also making inroads in non-apparel markets for products like wipes, filters, hygiene products and home décor items like curtains.


The Sustainability of Lyocell Fabric


Perhaps the biggest selling point of lyocell is its superior sustainability credentials compared to mainstream fabrics. Some key sustainable advantages of lyocell include:


Renewable Source Material: Lyocell is derived entirely from wood pulp sourced from sustainably managed forests. This makes it naturally renewable in contrast to oil-based synthetic fibers.


Minimal Environmental Impact: The solvent-based production system minimizes waste and virtually eliminates hazardous byproducts typical of viscose rayon manufacturing.


Biodegradable: Lyocell breaks down easily without harming the environment. This gives it an advantage over slow-degrading synthetics.


Energy Efficiency: Advances in lyocell technology have significantly boosted energy efficiency in manufacturing and lowered carbon footprint.


Superior Recyclability: While cotton and polyester have dismal recycling rates, lyocell can be easily recycled into new fibers using existing solutions without quality loss.


The sustainability offered by lyocell at each stage - from production to use to disposal - is a powerful argument driving its growth in the apparel industry seeking greener alternatives. Leading brands have already responded to this demand for eco-friendly fabrics by increasingly incorporating lyocell into their sustainable product offerings.


Rise of Lyocell in the Textile Industry


Buoyed by substantial sustainability benefits, lyocell fiber production has grown over 300% globally in the last decade with new manufacturing capacities coming online regularly. Major players like Lenzing AG of Austria have cemented their leadership position by spearheading large-scale lyocell production technology. Growth is expected to remain strong in the future due to rising eco-consciousness among consumers and legislators compelling apparel brands to reduce their environmental footprint.


Lyocell is uniquely positioned to gain market share from mainstream fabrics like cotton struggling with unpredictable crop yields and high water usage as well as synthetic polyester facing intense backlash over plastic pollution. Even viscose rayon with its hazardous elements cannot easily compete against greener lyocell. Suppliers are bringing vast new lyocell fabric portfolios along with novel blends to drive replacement of more impactful materials across garment categories.


In response, top clothing companies that had previously disregarded sustainability are getting on board the lyocell wave by highlighting the eco attributes in their products and campaigns. Major fashion capitals are enthusiastic promoters of lyocell as the new sustainable fabric of choice. Retail availability of lyocell apparel and household items is spreading worldwide as production capacity rises to satisfy swelling global demand for greener goods.

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