Regenerate

These two garments have been produced more than 80 years apart. The fabrics both have silk-like qualities in drape and feel and the fibres used in the textiles are extracted from regenerated cellulose. However, they are produced using processes that have greatly differing environmental impacts.

Viscose rayon, first manufactured for commercial use in 1905 by Courtaulds, is created using a process that necessitates a range of harmful chemicals, as well as significant amounts of water and energy, to produce a filament which can be drawn out and spun into a usable fibre. If not properly managed, the production of viscose rayon has the potential to cause negative impacts on human health and the environment. It has also been shown to have very slow biodegradability. This example (1) was likely produced around 1942-52 and carries the CC41 Utility mark denoting a standard material produced in large quantities. In 1942 strict austerity rules ensured clothes made the most economical use of material. The busy, multi-coloured pattern of this blouse meant that no matching up was required, considerably reducing material waste.

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Decades later, the production methods used to make Lyocell, the fabric present in the Mango blouse (2) are significantly different. First manufactured for commercial use in 1988 again by Courtaulds, Lyocell is fabricated using a closed-loop process involving the use of a non-toxic, organic, solvent to dissolve the wood pulp from which the regenerated cellulose is derived, and uses far less water. Almost all of the solvent and the water used in the process is recovered and reused. Manufacturers of Lyocell focus on sourcing wood pulp from sustainable managed forests, thus reducing its environmental impact further. Lyocell garments can biodegrade can in as little as 90 days, leaving no toxic residue behind. Compared to viscose rayon, Lyocell offers a more sustainable and eco-friendly option.

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