Lenzing Group is scaling the production of pre-consumer recycled lyocell with the support of three denim mills. The company revealed this week that it has entered the initial phase of the Fiber Recycling Initiative by Tencel.
Long-term partners Artistic Milliners from Pakistan, Canatiba from Brazil and Textil Santanderina from Spain have kicked off the production of denim fabrics derived from mechanically recycled Tencel branded lyocell fibers. Artistic Milliners previewed the fabrics last October at Kingpins Amsterdam.
The circular project builds on Tencel's position in the denim market as a sustainable fiber for denim. Virgin Tencel lyocell is made with a closed loop production process that transforms sustainably sourced wood pulp into cellulosic fibers with high resource efficiency and low carbon footprint. Mechanically recycled Tencel fibers adds to the sustainability features of the denim fabric, as it does not require usage of water or chemicals.
"As we constantly seek ways to improve circularity across various components of the textile industry, our like-minded, decades-long value chain partners have innovatively discovered the mechanical recycling of Tencel lyocell fibers in denim production," said Tuncay Kılıçkan, Lenzing's head of global business development, denim.
The three mills are producing the recycled fiber from pre-consumer waste including yarn production waste and fabric scraps collected at their production facilities. The mills are converting the waste materials into raw materials for using in their production processes.
Kılıçkan said the percentage of recycled fibers used in the fabric is up to the mills and depends on the spinning methods. "Based on our understanding, at the moment, up to 50 percent of mechanically-recycled Tencel lyocell fibers could be used in the production of new denim fabric," he said.
Unlike mechanically recycled cotton, which results in a shorter fiber length than virgin cotton, mechanically recycled Tencel fibers maintain length, resistance and all the physical properties of virgin Tencel. Fabrics made with mechanically recycled Tencel lyocell feature a "close-to-cotton" aesthetic while retaining the core features of Tencel like breathability, smooth drape and comfort.
"Considering the high tenacity of Tencel lyocell fibers, there is an edge to increase recycled content while producing higher quality fabrics," said Baber Sultan, Artistic Milliners director of research, product and trend. "The new fabric has so much potential across global markets, especially with the nostalgia around Y2K and other vintage looks. The classic salt and pepper effect really blooms with mechanically recycled Tencel lyocell fibers, along with that neppy denim aesthetics."
The recycled fibers can also be verified and traced back to their sources, ensuring brands greater accountability and transparency in their supply chain.
Demand from brands and consumers for more circular products led Lenzing to launch the initiative. Canatiba said mechanically recycled Tencel has "a strong potential to scale among large brands and department stores" in Brazil. José Antonio Mazorra, Textil Santanderina's corporate social responsibility manager, goes one step further and said the textile industry depends on sustainability and circularity to "guarantee the survival of denim."
"The awareness of reducing environmental impact within our sector is growing, especially with the industry trends of circular economy and sustainable production practices," he said. "I expect that innovation and technological improvements around circularity, including phases of collection, selection and recycling, will result in a greater need for mechanically recycled cellulosic fibers."