Fashion Positive members have identified nine high-impact, shared materials that need to be improved to accelerate circular fashion. Working in collaboration with assessors and suppliers, member-selected materials will be optimized until they can be Cradle to Cradle Certified™ at the Gold level and added to the Fashion Positive Materials Collection as a resource for the industry.
Chemically Recycled Cellulosics
Viscose is a man-made cellulosic fiber created from dissolved wood pulp, then recycled using chemical means.
Consideration: Viscose is made from trees, which may involve the harvesting of ancient or endangered forests. As with other cellulosic fibers, feedstock of wood pulp must be sustainably sourced.
Opportunity: Chemically recycled viscose can be made from any cellulosic waste stream, including cotton and garments that are made from cotton, viscose or any other cellulosic material.
Chemically Recycled Polyester
Polyester, a synthetic fiber derived from crude oil, is the fastest growing fiber in the world. Chemical recycling converts the polyester polymer back into monomers through chemical means, then re-polymerizes it to make recycled polyester.
Consideration: Polyester–recycled or virgin–is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is derived from petrochemicals. Antimony trioxide, a hazardous chemical, is used as a catalyst during the manufacture of PET resin. Recycling and reusing PET perpetuates exposure to antimony trioxide because it remains in apparel as a contaminant and is hard to eliminate completely.
Opportunity: The advantages of recycled polyester over virgin include reduced waste to landfill, reduced energy and water usage during manufacturing and reduced demand for non-renewable, environmentally degrading petrochemicals.
Cuprammonium rayon is a regenerated cellulosic fiber made from cotton linter dissolved in cuprammonium solution. Cotton linter is the short downy fiber that enfolds the cottonseed; it is an agricultural byproduct.
Consideration: The cuprammonium rayon manufacturing process uses wasteful, auxiliary hazardous chemicals. The copper used in the process is often sourced from virgin material, even though copper is highly recyclable. While cuprammonium rayon fibers are biodegradable, the finished textile is enhanced with chemicals, such as dyes, softeners and other finishing agents that may limit biodegradability.
Opportunity: Optimize processing conditions and design cuprammonium rayon to cycle.
Faux leather is a non-animal replacement to leather, which is derived from animal hides.
Consideration: Some faux leather is made from petroleum-derived materials, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen that's harmful to human and environmental health. Additionally, faux leather is typically not recyclable.
Opportunity: Faux leathers made from renewable and benign resources such as mycelium or pineapple could radically change the environmental and health impact of leather. Additionally, faux leather could create new markets for agriculturalists. Faux leathers made from natural materials could potentially be designed to biodegrade back into soil at the end of their use phase.
Indigo for Denim
Indigo is a rich, deep blue colored dye used to dye denim.
Consideration: While indigo can be sourced form the leaves of the Indigofera tinctoria plant, it's most often derived from non-renewable petrochemical sources. Toxic dye auxiliaries are needed in the dyeing process, including aniline, a possible carcinogen, which remains as a contaminant in the fabric.
Opportunity: More indigo is produced than any other dye in the world. Although the denim industry has embraced sustainability as a platform for innovation, prior to now, most of the innovation has occurred either at the fiber or finished garment stage. Circular indigo dye can help build the perfect jean.
Lyocell is a cellulosic fiber made from hardwood wood pulp such as oak or birch. Staple fibers are used in denim and chinos. Filament fibers, which are softer and silkier than staple ones, are used in women’s clothing and dress shirts. Lyocell can be blended with other fibers, as well.
Consideration: As with other cellulosic fibers, feedstock of wood pulp must be sustainably sourced.
Opportunity: Verify sustainable sources for wood pulp and design lyocell to cycle.
Reactive Dyes for Cotton
Reactive dyes consist of highly colored, bright shades that dye cellulosic materials like cotton, rayon, linen, flax and lyocell. They can also be used to dye protein fibers like wool and silk, as well as nylon, but the reaction conditions are different.
Consideration: Reactive dyes use a large amount of auxiliaries such as salts, soda ash and detergents during the dyeing process. Many reactive dyes contribute to wasteful use of petroleum-derived chemicals.
Opportunity: Optimize processing chemicals, verify sustainable sources for inputs, and design reactive dyes for circular usage.
Sulfur dyes are used to dye cotton. They have a limited range of hues and are mostly black, brown, and dark blue.
Consideration: Sulfur dyes require wasteful and highly toxic dye auxiliaries for the dying process. One of these auxiliaries, sodium sulfide, is eventually released as effluent and is not biodegradable.
Opportunity: Optimize processing chemicals, verify sustainable sources for inputs, and design sulfur dyes for circular usage.
Viscose is a regenerated cellulosic fiber, made from purified cellulose obtained from wood pulp.
Consideration: Chemicals used in the processing of viscose are hazardous to both humans and the environment. Wood pulp for viscose may be sourced from ancient or endangered forests, and recycling technology is limited.
Opportunity: Optimize processing chemicals, verify sustainable sources for wood pulp, and design viscose to cycle.