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China viscose sector sets a three-year plan on cleaning up viscose production

Ten major Chinese viscose producers, which together make up an estimated over 50% of the world’s supply, have released a new joint 3-year roadmap for the sustainable development of the viscose fiber manufacturing industry in China.

Figure: China viscose sector launches three-year sustainability roadmap for cleaning up viscose manufacturing. Courtesy: Lenzing

Viscose is the third most commonly used textile fiber in the world, has become a hot-button environmental issue.

The plan comes from the Collaboration for Sustainable Development of Viscose (CV), an initiative launched earlier this year in partnership with two Chinese textile associations. And it has been compiled in response to rising scrutiny over the sustainability of sourcing and production of viscose, a regenerated fiber made from cellulose.

The new CV Roadmap aims to help members improve and benchmark their sourcing and manufacturing practices against a set of credible, practical and widely accepted international sustainability standards.

More specifically, companies have time until June 2019 to ensure that they source pulp certified by forest product chain of custody certifications such as the Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification ( PEFC) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and that manufacturing facilities pass the FSC or PEFC Chain of Custody (CoC) audit.

Wastewater discharge must meet parameters set out in the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals ( ZDHC) wastewater guidelines; the company must obtain the Sustainable Textile Standard Production (STeP) by Oeko-Tex certification scoring at Level 1 or above, and complete a Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM) 3.0 Self-assessment.

The 12 founding members of CV are China Chemical Fiber Association, China Cotton Textile Association, Funing Aoyang, Hengtian Helon, Jilin Chemical Fiber, Sateri, Shandong Yamei, Shandong Yinying, Tangshan Sanyou, Xinxiang Bailu Chemical Fiber, Yibin Grace, and Zhejiang Fulida.

Beyond this, advanced requirements will be the focus from July 2019 to December 2020, and include taking proactive management measures to reduce the risk of using wood products from High Conservation Value (HCV) or High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests.

There is also a stipulation to achieve the domestic advanced or international advanced level of the Cleaner Production Assessment Standard for Man-made Cellulose (Viscose) Manufacturing.

Last year, an investigation by Changing Markets Foundation, a social and environmental advocacy group based in the United States and the Netherlands, found that viscose factories in China, India, and Indonesia were dumping untreated wastewater in lakes and rivers, “ruining lives and livelihoods” by destroying subsistence agriculture and exposing local populations to cancer-causing substances.

In the wake of the report, Asos, C&A, Esprit, H&M, Inditex, M&S, and Tesco threw their support behind Changing Markets’ roadmap toward responsible viscose and modal manufacturing.

Similarly, Lenzing and Aditya Birla, two of the world’s largest viscose producers, have committed all their sites to meeting EU Ecolabel requirements for viscose production by 2022.

Also Read: Lenzing increases capacity in textile and nonwoven specialty cellulose fibers

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