With both labelled as "Eco-Friendly" and sustainable textile options, is there a difference between Viscose Bamboo & Lyocell Bamboo?
The two types of Bamboo textiles originate from all-natural, renewable and biodegradable sources, which gives them a big tick over the very water demanding Cotton alternative, with some experts believing that cotton is the largest user of water among all agricultural commodities.
While both the Lyocell and Viscose products are traditionally made from wood, it can also be extracted from bamboo. Bamboo is a very fast-growing plant that goes without the need for pesticides, herbicides or irrigation, as such it is often referred to as eco-friendly. This is not the case for the two, and this is where the differences between the two matters.
Viscose, also known as Rayon, uses a process that contains a number of harmful chemicals. The manufacturing process of Viscose is also a heavy user of water when compared to Lyocell. A recent investigation by the US & Netherlands based social and environmental advocacy group, Changing Markets Foundation, found that viscose factories in China, India, and Indonesia were dumping untreated wastewater in lakes and rivers, "ruining lives and livelihoods" by destroying subsistence agriculture and exposing local populations to cancer-causing substances. Thankfully, following these findings, the major manufacturers of Viscose have committed to clean up their act and we will hopefully see a smaller gap of the ecological impact between the two soon.
The Lyocell manufacturing process requires fewer steps compared with Viscose fibre manufacturing. Steps such as the derivatization, alkalization and xanthation of Viscose are omitted in the Lyocell process. Ensuring that Lyocell is free from harmful chemicals and with efficient closed-loop recycled water systems, it is a great leap in front of Viscose in terms of the eco-friendly' label they both tend to receive.
When shopping for textile products manufactured from Bamboo Lyocell, you should ensure they carry the OEKO-TEX® label. If a textile article carries the STANDARD 100 label, you can be confident that every component of this article has been tested and confirmed free from harmful substances.