Viscose is the most common form of rayon and often used as a synonym for rayon. It’s mainly derived from hardwood trees such as, beech, spruce and eucalyptus. The end fiber is considered 100% biodegradable. A few of the major environmental concerns with viscose include deforestation, chlorine bleach treatment, water usage/footprint and air emissions from carbon disulphide (CS2).
Deforestation can be minimized by sourcing trees from semi-forests or plantations that hold certifications such as FSC and PEFC. Currently, there are 120 million trees being cut down annually for viscose production.
Chlorine treatment, which we will discuss in depth later, can be partially mitigated by using TCF or ECF treatments.
Water usage is considered to be high and varies a lot. However, overall water footprint is significantly less compared to both polyester and conventional cotton.
One of the main chemicals needed to produce viscose is CS2. During the viscose production process, CS2 emits sulphur compounds which are hazardous to the environment. The exact amount air emissions is not well known but emissions do increase significantly with the amount of CS2 used. Companies like Lenzing, have invested in air filtration systems that curb the amount of CS2 released into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it does not seem that we can currently capture 100% of the CS2 emissions.