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Fibre & Raw Materials

In 2018 ZDHC expanded the scope of the Roadmap to Zero Programme to include the production of Man-Made Cellulosic Fibres (MMCF), the first fibre production area to be included in the Programme.

Man-Made Cellulosic Fibres (MMCF) are produced from natural feedstock, such as wood and plants, using hazardous chemicals. Within the production process of viscose and modal, the chemicals react with the cellulose and create by-products that might be released into the air, water and soil, in case the production process is not an integrated (closed loop) process.

From 2017 on, a series of relevant reports were published by NGOs. These include: Dirty Fashion from Changing Markets, Viscose Fibres Production - An Assessment of Sustainability Issues from The Water Footprint, The Hot Button Issue: Detailed Matrix of Viscose Producer Performance from Canopy among others. These reports highlight the environmental and human health impacts of viscose production at manufacturing sites, with a focus on wastewater and air pollution, the resulting impact on public health, and the need for collaborative action.

Over the past years, the collaborative efforts of the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme have largely focused on driving chemical management best practices and related innovations in the dyeing and finishing of textile, apparel, leather and footwear. Given the importance of fibre production not only in terms of environmental impact but also for circularity of the industry, it was a logical step for ZDHC to expand its content scope to include raw material production into its Roadmap to Zero Programme. With the global viscose production continuing and projected to grow, the collective action of ZDHC will start with Man-Made Cellulosic Fibres (MMCF; including viscose, modal and lyocell) and is expected to expand to further materials in the future.

Here are the activities carried out so far by ZDHC and those planned for the near term to address chemicals associated with MMCF production:

  • A report by an industry expert commissioned by ZDHC in early 2018 concluded that restriction of chemicals using the ZDHC MRSL approach was not feasible as the restrictions of these chemicals would halt most MMCF production processes. Rather, the conclusion was that the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme could have most impact by collaboratively setting guidance around good chemical management and setting guidance limits for wastewater, sludge, and air emissions during fibre production while calling for continued further research into processes for MMCF production using less hazardous chemicals.

  • In March 2018, ZDHC hosted the first multi-stakeholder MMCF roundtable with representatives from approximately 80% of the global MMCF production attending. Several ZDHC Signatory Brands such as C&A, Coop Switzerland, Esprit, Inditex, H&M, M&S, Primark, PVH Corp and F&F, as well as Value Chain Affiliates Lenzing Group, BIRLA CELLULOSE, Sateri, Canopy, Textile Exchange, Bluesign and the China Chemical Fibers Association (CCFA), the Collaboration for Sustainable Development of Viscose (CV) and the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles attended the event. It was agreed that ZDHC should lead collaborative work to develop a clear framework of guidelines for wastewater, sludge, waste and air emissions specific to MMCF production as well as expectations for process by-product recovery rates.The guidelines will (for now) focus on the production of MMCF while the dissolving pulp production process will be considered at a later stage.

  • From July 2018 a Task Team composed of participants of the roundtable worked to draft the wastewater guidelines. In December 2018, the Task Team focused mainly on establishing the parameters and limit values for a MMCF wastewater pilot, as well as testing methodologies in bi-weekly meetings using an empirical approach, comparing different limit values such as local regulations of producing countries and best available techniques in order to set up parameters and limit values for this pilot.

  • During April 2019, an agreement of the limit values was reached to move forward with the MMCF wastewater pilot that will allow ZDHC to gain deeper understanding about the state of the industry to be able to translate the data collected into limit values for the final draft of the guidelines.

  • During May 2019, the MMCF Task Team has started working in parallel with the Task Team of the Output Focus Area specialised in Air Emissions on the first draft of the MMCF guideline for Air Emissions with the intention of generating alignment with both guidelines and accelerating the progress of the MMCF guideline for Air Emissions.

Next steps: