Using wood for textiles – More conscious than some think

We recently ran a consumer survey on a number of things related to consumer attitudes towards sustainability in textile materials, textile raw materials and emerging materials like our wood-based fibre.

Made in four European countries and the US, the survey gives us intriguing insight to all this. We will disclose the entire results in the near future, but here’s a sneak peek, as I wanted to first address a misconception that we often hear and was also visible in the survey results.

Firstly, we were glad to see that 86% of all respondents found wood a “very” to “somewhat sustainable” raw material for textiles. However the 86% includes 37% that answered “somewhat sustainable” and 15% said they don’t think wood is sustainable at all, so there are some concerns and that’s fine. Being worried about overusing wood only shows awareness.

However, let’s put things in proportion. Annually, some 185 million tonnes of wood pulp is produced globally*. Some 60% of that goes to packaging, 30% for printing and writing paper, and the rest on tissue paper and smaller volume, added value products like textile fibre.

The volume of wood-based textile fibres is 6.7 million tonnes per annum**, equaling the amount of chemically dissolved pulp, the raw material of all man-made cellulosic fibres. These don’t include our fibre, as our feedstock is mechanically ground pulp called micro fibrillated cellulose, an even more sustainable choice.

Now here’s the beef: the 6.7 million tonnes equals 3.6% of the 185 million tonnes of pulp produced globally. I bet you would have guessed more than that. Even if this number grew – which is desirable, as wood-based textiles help mitigate climate change the most – this is likely to be compensated by the declining use of print paper (-9% in 2019 compared to 2018).

Even if paper volumes grew (unlikely) or stagnated, we would still be on the safe side. You see, a misconception we also see is that, to supply for the cellulosic textile fibre market, we need to take down native forest. This is partly true, but the most responsible choice for textile raw material supply is farmed wood, such as fast growing eucalyptus, that is harvested for pulping purposes only. A big proportion of man-made cellulosics, such as lyocell, is made of this. Micro fibrillated eucalyptus will also be the raw material of Spinnova’s commercial fibre production.

Even if we were to farm more wood, it’s not bad news for the planet, if the wood is sourced from a responsibly managed forest like ours. These come with an FSC and/or PEFC certification, which is likely to be shown on the end product. A professionally managed, planted forest is built on depleted pastureland, around native forest areas in a mosaic fashion, respecting biodiversity. Plantations are often also CO2 positive, which means that they capture more carbon dioxide than the harvesting, pulping and logistics of the pulp production combined emit.

Produced with a clean process like ours, or even with a closed chemical process, wood-based fibre’s sustainability on the raw material level is second to none.

Stay sustained <3


P.S. Big thanks to those 1,572 people who responded to our survey. Understanding our future customers’ customers is very important to our development.

*Confederation of European Paper Industries, CEPI, 2017

** Textile Exchange, 2018