New standards in cellulose fibre technology. We ask Lenzing AG

The Austrian Lenzing Group is one of the world’s market leaders when it comes to sales of high-quality, ecologically manufactured cellulose fibres. Lorenz Wied, Vice President Global Business Development, spoke to Texpertise Network about the unique manufacturing method used for Lyocell fibres, high investment levels and endangered reserves of trees.

Lenzing has developed a unique process for the manufacture of Lyocell fibres. Was this in response to customers’ wishes for a ‘green’ material or are you creating new markets? Is the trend towards recycling also of interest to you?
Lyocell technology belongs to the third generation of cellulose fibres. For the Lenzing Group, as a technological leader in the man-made cellulose fibre industry, this represents a milestone in technological development. The fascination has always been and continues to be in a non-chemical process that sets wholly new standards in terms of cellulose fibre technology. That is the basis of the outstanding ratings for environmental acceptability. We were the first company in the sector to investigate this scientifically, measure it and report on it in a life-cycle analysis for fibres. We did this with the help of the University of Utrecht. The results have brought us numerous environmental accolades.
By generating fibre in this way – fibre that we sell all over the world under the TENCEL® brand – we have been developing the market for over 20 years. TENCEL® fibres are very popular for use in mixtures with cotton, polyester as well as wool, linen and even silk.

Lorenz Wied, Lenzing AG

Lorenz Wied, Lenzing AG

Closed circuits that spring from nothing of course generate extremely high costs. Are you able to recoup investments like that?
The closed circuit of Lyocell technology is part of the whole system and not an add-on. Investment in the construction of a Lyocell plant is, however, considerable and requires an industrial scale of production for it to be possible to offer the fibres in conditions that make economic sense. That has all been part of the Lenzing Group’s core competences since time was.

Designers and brands such as Stella McCartney, H&M, Zara and Quiksilver have all undertaken not to use fibres made from endangered wood reserves. What does this mean for Lenzing?
Lenzing has been working closely with well-known partners from the Austrian and European forestry industry for a good many years now. When we buy in wood, and, of course, when we buy cellulose pulp, too, we take great care to use only certified raw materials and not to use anything from unknown sources – it is something we are very strict about. Our sources all have FSC or PFSC accreditation. That way, all the fibre products of the Lenzing Group meet our customers’ stringent sourcing rules.

Copyright for the image: Lenzing AG

This article was originally published on our Sustainabilty & Textiles newsletter 03/2014.

Marc Chalupsky

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