Viscose rayon is an artificial material obtained from plant-regenerated cellulose. It was the first ever artificial fibre, developed in the 19th century. Before that, fabrics were made exclusively from natural fibres such as cotton, linen or silk. The chemical process of processing natural fibres was invented by Count Hilaire de Chardonnet in 1884, who had the idea of reproducing silk fibres in a laboratory by using cellulose (wood pulp).
Indonesia is the main international exporter of viscose rayon. Viscose rayon represents 6.3% of the global textile market, making it the third most produced material in the world after cotton and polyester. Today, viscose rayon is very widespread in the textile industry and is an essential part of clothing.
Viscose rayon is very resistant, and clothing made with this material is therefore very stable and does not shrink or tear. Since the fabric is homogeneous, it is also easy to dye and print with patterns in vivid and long-lasting colours.
Viscose rayon fibres are very thin, which makes the textiles flowy and soft. The material is also absorbent and breathable, making it comfortable and pleasant to wear.
Artificial fibres are cheaper than natural fibres such as silk or cotton.
Viscose rayon fibres do not absorb moisture if the humidity is too high. They are therefore not suitable for winter clothing or sportswear.
Its manufacturing process is harmful to the environment, as it is partially based on the use of fossil resources, consumes a lot of energy, and emits a lot of CO2. It also requires the use of many chemical solvents, including carbon disulphide (CS2), a toxic, flammable and polluting product. This technique generates sulphur pollution, because carbon disulphide cannot be recovered once it has been used to dissolve cellulose.
The “classic” process is also very water-intensive: 2.5 kg of cellulose and 4,000 to 11,000 litres of water are required to manufacture 1 kg of viscose rayon. In terms of resources and raw materials, conventional viscose rayon is often not produced with cellulose from ethically and sustainably managed forests, as shown by supporting certification. About a third of viscose rayon comes from old-growth forests that are being depleted.
Although viscose rayon is biodegradable, the time it takes to degrade in the environment is around 200 years for a simple T-shirt. Finally, it is responsible for a significant proportion of the micro-plastics found in the ocean and other waterways.
We can make your next standard viscose rayon items, but above all we could try to produce them in Ecovero® or Tencel® to limit your environmental impact. Please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can talk about it in person.