Touchpoint of View: What is the best fabric of them all?
You can concratulate yourself as you have found your way to our brand new blog. :) In these regularly published articles, we will cover everything around sustainability, the circular economy and the textile industry in general.
In this first post, we ponder that if all the world's clothes were to be made of one particular material, then what would be the most sustainable material option? We also asked VTT Professor Ali Harlin for his opinion.
Different materials are widely used in the textile industry. Globally, almost 120 million tonnes of textile fibers were produced in 2020. The most used fibers were polyester 56 % and cotton 23 % (source: Fiber Year 2021). Let us pause for a moment to consider on the scale of the volume of fiber production. We are talking about 120,000,000,000 that is 12 Billion Kilos. Sorry to say but no virgin/newly produced fiber can be a solution to such a massive production volume, even from the point of view of Biodiversity collapse.
VTT recearch professor Ali Harlin replied to our question:
“Virgin polyester and now also recycled polyester are strongly available to fill the growing textile market, but the problem is that they are oil-based and therefore we have the microplastic problem with those. Wool would be excellent in many ways as a fiber, but since it is a protein it is not enough to fill the need in global scale. The most common and versatile textile fiber would be cotton, but in terms of land use and sustainability, regenerated fibers made from lignocellulose, wood or agricultural waste most likely are the most sustainable solution. ”
As research professor Harlin pointed out above, the future of textile fibers is likely to be found among “cotton-like” regenerated cellulosic fibers. The material which would be obtained, at best, from the by-product of other industrial production. It has been said that the circular economy will be an answer for the battle against Biodiversity collapse. In other words, when we reduce the need for virgin raw materials, we reduce land use, which in turn safeguards biodiversity.
And lastly we would like to remind you that the most responsible garment is what you already wear. So what we can each do is to reduce the need for new textile fibers by using clothes for as long as possible, repair, maintain and recycle, please.
PS. Have you thought that wearing workwear will extend the life of your own clothes.