Evolution of Natural Fibers and New Alternatives

Cotton demand has increased globally, while adverse weather conditions have lead to a decrease in yields from cotton fields. Shortage reports will continue in the future if no changes occur in supply and demand quantities.

Online PR News – 08-July-2010 – – Domestic cotton consumption in China has increased by 20% in the past five years, while the production of yarn consumes about 24 million tons of raw cotton every year. This exceeds China’s forecast of 7 million tons of cotton production in 2010.

Recycling and Renewing Resources
Humans made use of natural resources to produce clothes to protect their bodies ever since the first garment made from cellulosic leaves. Viscose was the first artificial silk developed in 1894 by regenerating cellulosic fibers and quickly became an alternative to natural fibers.

This process involves harsh chemicals and significant amounts of water. Nylon and Polyester were later developed and thus created more alternatives to natural fibers (http://www.softlines.sgs.com/functional-clothing.htm). Nylon and Polyester can be recycled and used for making new fiber for clothing and other consumer products. Some of the most interesting facts about recycling polyester and the consumption perspective include: 10 plastic bottles = 1 pound of polyester fiber, 1 million plastic bottles recycled saves 250 barrels of oil, recycling plastic bottles takes 8 times less energy than to producing an equivalent amount of new ones, 150 fleece garments made from recycled plastic bottles saves 1 barrel of oil and supplying the plastic bottles that Americans use each year requires 47 million barrels of oil and releases 1 billion pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Brands and retailers such as Patagonia and REI collect their polyester garments from consumers and recycle them into fiber used to produce new garments. A similar process can be implemented for off cuts and waste resulting from the garment production process.

New Alternative Fibers
In 1991 Lyocell was introduced to consumers and was initially marketed as a type of Rayon. Cellulose is used in an environmentally friendly type of production(http://www.softlines.sgs.com/home-textiles.htm) to generate Lyocell. This is what makes Lyocell much more eco-friendly than other regenerated cellulosic fibers. Lyocell is very similar to cotton and the fabric is very soft and has a texture similar to silk. Excellent absorbency, resistance to wrinkling and high strength are but a few of the qualities of the machine washable Lyocell fabrics.

Similar to ramie in its appearance and functional property, bamboo fiber is even finer and thinner. The cross-section of the natural bamboo fiber is filled with various micro-gaps and micro-holes, enabling very good moisture absorption and ventilation. These qualities translate into high breathability which allows for the products to feel cool and comfortable on the skin. No pesticides and fertilizers are needed in the production of bamboo fibers which emits 30% more oxygen than leaf-trees and compared to cotton, requires less energy and water to grow.

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