Friday 29 February 2008

Lenzing Botanic Symposium: Paris – 21/2/2008

Life cycle assessment of Man-Made Cellulosics

Li Shen of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands has been carrying out a new life-cycle assessment of fibres for Lenzing. Dr Josef Schmidtbauer, who was present in the audience, was her main contact in the company. Figures for Modal and Tencel were the only new data presented here, and any comparisons with other fibres such as PET, PP and cotton used Boustead's 2005 data for those fibres. The “Tencel 2012” figures were derived on the assumption that in 2012, Tencel would be made using an integrated tree-to-fibre plant process powered by the incineration of Municiple Solid Waste. System boundaries were given as a) Cradle to Lenzing Austria factory gates, and b) cradle to gate plus an energy credit based on the assumption that post consumer MSW incineration recovered 60% of the energy content.

Environmental Impacts evaluated were: • Non-renewable energy
• Global Warming (CO2 emissions)
• Land use for biomass production
• Water Use
• the CML (Centrum voor Milieukunde Leiden ) environmental indicators: abiotic depletion, human toxicity, fresh water ecotoxicity, terrestrial ecotoxicity, photochemical oxidants, acidification and eutrophication.

For Non-renewable energy , the net gigajoules/tonne of fibre were lowest for Tencel 2012 at 13gj/t followed by Modal at 16 gj/t. US or Chinese cotton was next at 31gj/t, with Tencel being the highest of the cellulosics with 34/gj. European PP required 56 gj/t and European polyester came in at 78 gj/t.

For Global Warming Potential , the net tonnes CO 2 equivalent per tonne of fibre were 0.9 for Modal, 1.1 for Tencel 2012, 2.1 for Tencel, 2.8 for cotton, 4.3 for PP and 5.5 for polyester.

For Land Use , a distinction between agricultural land which can be used for food, and forest land which can't has to be made, and then this can only apply to the cellulosics. Here the world average agricultural land use for cotton is 1.07 hectares per tonne, compared with 0.8 hectares for US and Chinese cotton. Lenzing Modal requires 0.6 hectares per tonne, while Tencel requires 0.2 hectares/tonne. Compared with using a tonne of polyester, using a tonne of cotton would save 57 gigajoules/hectare/tonne fibre of non-renewable energy, the figures for Modal, Tencel and Tencel 2012 being 108, 210 and 340 respectively.

For Water Use , PP and PET were best with 76 and 130 tonnes/tonne fibre, and US/Chinese cotton worst with 5730 tonnes/tonne fibre. Tencel used 265 tonnes and Modal 494 tonnes.

The CML Environmental indicators were assessed relative to cotton (index 100):

Abiotic depletion for Tencel 2012 on the same basis was 40, compared 110 for current Tencel and Modal and 240 for PET and PP.

Human Ecotoxicity for the non-cotton cellulosics was about one third of the cotton value. PET was 75% and PP 20%.

Freshwater Ecotoxicity and Terrestrial Ecotoxicity were negligible for all fibres but cotton. Tencel 2012 had the least impact of all (>3% of cotton)

Photochemical Oxidation levels were comparable for the cellulosics, but PET was up at 150% of cotton and PP was 170%.

Acidification was below 50% of the cotton value for all fibres but PP (70%)

Eutrophication was below 10% of the cotton value for all fibres but PET (15%)

In an attempt to arrive at a single score to sum up the above, Ms Lin had assumed equal weighting for each of the above impacts and summed them, the following scores being relative to US/Chinese cotton (Index 100).

Western EU Polyester 80
Western EU PP 70
Tencel Austria 42
Modal Austria 38
Tencel Austria 2012 28

Attempts to apply weightings (e.g. NOGEPA – Netherlands Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Association normalisation method - 1995) to allow the single scores to better reflect the relative importance of each of the environmental impacts did not change the order, but showed cotton in an even worse light as a result of amplifying the importance of terrestrial and fresh-water ecotoxicity. On this normalised basis the man-made cellulosics have about a tenth of the environmental impact of intensively farmed cotton, with Tencel 2012 being a significant improvement on current Tencel and Modal.

Challenging Sustainability

Dr Alfred Strigl of the Austrian Institute for Sustainable Development recycled his Outlook 2006 paper and listed the challenges of the age of rising temperatures and sea-levels:
•1 to 3 o C average temperature rise by 2050.
• Sea-level to go up by 0.1 to 0.3 metres by 2050.
• More natural catastrophes due to more energetic climate.
• Water shortages due to run-off pattern changes.
• World population to rise from 6.4 billion now to 10 billion in 2050.
• Along with rising population come issues related to food and water, hygiene, energy, information, human rights, terrorism, mass migrations and disease.

New points in this talk:• US credit market debt has been rising since 1950 and moved above 3 times USA GDP in 2005 ($33.6 trillion debt)
• US “Genuine Progess Indicator” (whatever that is) has been declining since 1970
• The 3 rd world pays $135million/day interest on its loans compared with receipts of $57 million/day in aid.

The annual increase in population is equivalent to a new country the size of Germany while annual soil degradation means an area the size of Germany becomes unproductive desert. Food production is declining and the rate of loss of species, especially marine species means the natural food chain diminishes. Using a financial analogy, we've managed to live off the Earth's interest until 1975, but since then have been consuming both interest and capital, and the capital reserves are now dangerously low. The Club of Rome “World 3” model predicts that by 2040, on a “Business as Usual” basis:
• Natural resource availability becomes critical.
• The persistent pollution index reaches 10 times the 2000 level
• Food availability peaks and starts to collapse
• Industrial output peaks and starts to collapse
• World population peaks at about 10 billion and collapses to 3 billion by 2100

Our only hope is that humanity is intelligent enough to deal with the problems it has caused by now replacing growth targets with sustainability targets. Assuming an immediate “Earth turns around to Sustainability” basis, the same Club of Rome model predicts:
• Natural resource availability does not become critical until 2100.
• Industrial output levels off and stabilises at 2015 levels.
• Food availability declines slightly to 2040 and then increases as…
• Persistent Pollution Index peaks at 4 times the 2000 level and begins to decline from 2040.
• World population stabilises at around 7.5 billion.

The ability to feed the growing population is becoming critical. Actual world grain production per capita had been declining since its 1983 peak of 342 kgs/person and stood at 290 kgs/person in 2003. Assuming it is all used for food, and not as as source of bio-ethanol, this is enough to feed 2.5 billion people at US levels of consumption or 12 billion people at the average Indian level of consumption. Ocean Biomass (seafood availability) is now at 40% of the level of 1950 and on a business as usual basis will be zero in 30 years. Meat production now accounts for 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions, is totally unsustainable, and must decline.

On the bright side, a Sustainability Megatrend is beginning to appear in Germany :• The land area used for growing renewable resources has increase eightfold since 1993 (to 1.6 million hectares)
• The number of “bio” or “organic” labelled products has increased from 1000 to 35,000 between 2001 and 2006
• Spending on organic foods has trebelled since 1997
• Ethical investments in Germany , Austria , Switzerland and Luxembourg are rising exponentially and are up tenfold on 1997.
• Sustainability issues are now reported in 2235 German company annual reports compared with 360 in 1997.
• The market for Fair Trade products in Austria is up 5-fold since 2002.

For Dr Strigl, a Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) should be adopted by all if we are to avert disaster. There were no questions.

Botanic Essences In Lenzing Fibres

Dr Choldwig Franz, Head of the Institute for Applied Botany and Pharamcognosy at the University of Vetinary Medicine, Vienna Austria has been using powerful analytical techniques to see if he can detect traces of plant chemistry in viscose and Tencel fibres at the behest of Lenzing who feel they might use such traces to market their fibres. The beech wood used to make Lenzing viscose in Austria contains lipids such as triglycerides, steryl esters, sterols and fatty acids; aliphatic acids such as stearic, oleic, linoleic and palmitic; along with glycerol, xylitol, monosaccharides and catechin. The eucalyptus used for Tencel contains these and others too numerous to list here. Many are bioactive with anti-oxidant or antimicrobial properties. Despite the aggressive fibre making processes most of the substances could be detected in extracts of the final fibres by HPLC, GC-Mass Spec, and spectrophotographic techniques – at the micrograms per gram level. The most important substances detectable in the fibers were squalene, sterols, phenols and fatty acids. (Squalene is known as a steroid precursor and is widely used in cosmetics and food supplements as an antioxidant – playing a vital role in quenching free-radical oxygen in skin.)

Interestingly, most species of pulp and the fibres made from them showed identical patterns of chemicals with minor quantitative differences, so these “chemical fingerprints” could be used to identify specific fibres and their wood sources.

Asked about similar studies on cotton, Dr Franz said they had been done, adding that cotton was the source of one of the potent male contraceptive chemicals. Asked why one of his slides showed Tencel with 3 times more squalene than the pulp from which it was made, he said this was impossible and thought there must be a mistake. Had water extracts of fibre been tested? No, but he agreed that the whole area of interaction between fibres and body fluids was worthy of further study.

In summing up, Hess Natur were asked if they would now consider using Tencel and Modal viscose in their natural fibre range. Only if a careful comparison with organic cotton looks favourable. Representations would then have to be made to the International Natural Textiles Association.

A Holistic Approach to Sustainability

Detlef Fischer of Bluesign Technologies Switzerland introduced their new quality standard intended to allow producers of textiles to meet higher safety and environmental standards. Consumers currently assume retailers are managing all possible risks in their supply chain, and of course this is rarely the case. In fact according to a recent survey, 67% of the raw material MSDS's are defective and misleading. Bluesign intend to open up the entire textile supply chain, make it transparent to the consumer and apply strict controls to all the inputs (and any outputs which are not part of the product) before deciding which products or brands are worth awarding the Bluesign® standard of health, safety and environmental excellence.

Where current quality labelling schemes are based on an analysis of the finished product, Bluesign will use Input Stream Management, and test every aspect of the manufacturing process. If an input is non-hazardous it gets a Blue rating, if it's hazardous and better materials could be used it gets a Black rating. Grey ratings signify that the material is not ideal but currently represents the best available technology. The Bluesign standard cannot be awarded to products with any Black inputs.

Purchasing textiles with the Bluesign® label will thus guarantee the consumer that these textiles are made:
• In an environmentally friendly manner
• Free from any toxic contamination – “guaranteed safe for the consumer”
• With maximum cost efficiency – “minimal waste of energy and natural resources”
• With minimal pollution - “absolute observance of air and water pollution limits”
• With minimal carbon footprint – “integration and optimisation of energy use to ensure great reductions in CO 2 production”
• With high standards of occupational health and safety for the workers in the supply chain.

Bluetool™ software has been developed to allow raw material and component suppliers to easily determine whether their products would meet the Bluesign® input standard.

Bluefinder™ is a web-based database to allow authorised system partners* to select alternative raw materials which would meet Bluesign® requirements.

Asked if Bluesign® would replace the Oekotex standard, Mr Fishcher thought it would not, because Oekotex focussed on an analysis of the finished product where Bluesign® focussed on the production route.

* A global network of producers, research institutes and audited testing institutes involved in the textile supply chain were being controlled by an Advisory Board comprising “representatives from science, politics, industry and trade, as well as consumer and environmental organisations”.

Sustainable Natural Garments

Rolf Hermann of Hess Natur Germany said his company used only natural fibres and avoided any resins or chemical treatments. Any cotton or linen used had to be organic, the cotton from Africa or Turkey and the linen from the new organic linen farms in Germany . Again, a holistic approach was used to choose materials, ethical sourcing and fair-trade pricing being an important part of the philosophy. Any wool used was pure and new, and had been subjected to a “mechanical plasma treatment” to give 40 0 C washability. 75% of their supply chain is within Europe to minimise “fabric miles” and where offshore processing is used it is audited against the following requirements:
• No forced labour
• No discrimination in employment
• No exploitation of child labour
• Freedom of association
• Legally binding employment relationship.
• Fair wages and regular working hours in humane conditions

The resulting garments did cost more, but responsible consumers were now as likely to pay a premium for sustainability as they once were for high fashion. Their 100% organic denim jeans were if anything slightly less costly than comparable fashion brands. They carried the following swing tickets which were proving attractive to consumers :
• Fair trade certified cotton
• The Fair Wear Foundation – members work to enhance the working conditions in the supply chain
• Global Organic Textile Standard
• Naturtextil Certificate

Waterproofing rainwear had presented a problem so Hess Natur had reverted to the old stearin and beeswax system. Goretex was described as hopelessly over-engineered for everyday outerwear.

Going green in the Textile World

Marcia Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy USA is dedicated to providing the consumer with a fusion of fashion, wellness and social responsibility, and hence specialises in providing a range of “cool organic fashion” without compromising quality or performance. She stressed the significant link between organic food and organic garments: not only did they appeal to the same consumers, but 60% of the weight of the cotton harvest goes into food as oil. Her preferred fibres were organic and Fair Trade versions of wool, cotton, silk, angora and linen, but she did also use Tencel, bamboo, and seaweed. Dyes had to be low impact, indigo was recycled. All suppliers had to demonstrate social responsibility, fair labour policies and animal rights as core values. Miscellaneous points made:
• The US consumer feels he has more impact on the planet's health by buying the right things than he does by voting.
• The organic fibre market was growing rapidly – at 44% pa between 2005 and 2010 according to the first line on a slide and at “an average annual growth rate of 116%” on the next.
• Organic cotton was a $245million business in 2002 and will be a $6.8 billion business by 2010 - presumably at retail level.
• Organic cotton sales more than trebled from 20 million in 2005 to nearly 70 million in 2007 - no units provided.
• Organic cotton needs to be certified: some unscrupulous suppliers claim organic if they avoid pesticide spray for the year's production.
• Nike target 5% organic cotton use by 2010
• “every time we increase costs by doing the right thing we make more profit” (
Patagonia Clothing ).

Her company partnered with the Environmental Media Association, NRDC, the Rainforest Foundation, the Rainforest Alliance, the Soil Association, the Rodale Research Institute, Amnesty International, Stop Global Warming, the Waterkeepers Alliance and the CA Coalition for Clean Air.

Asked why she used bamboo fibre, Ms Zaroff said this fast growing weed brings an interesting new handle. Did she know it was viscose rayon made from bamboo pulp in one of the more polluting and environmentally unfriendly Chinese factories? No – she thought it came direct from plant. Another audience member commented that the Chinese are working on a new mechanical extraction process to make a bamboo bast fibre, but any fine fibre with a soft handle is made using the rayon route.

Asked about US Organic cotton she said US farmers find it hard to go organic: they lease the land and can't invest in building soil quality. They also harvest mechanically – a process with a large carbon footprint. So if you want to buy certified organic cotton, invest in, and buy direct from farms - offshore.

Calvin Woodings