Cellulose-Based Textiles Trends: Raw Materials and Technologies
Growing environmental awareness and social concern about the impact of the textile industry on the environment highlight the increasing need to develop environmentally friendly and sustainable approaches throughout the supply chain of this industry. Due to population growth and increasing consumption of textile fibers, new sustainable raw materials and processes need to be found. Cellulose has unique structural characteristics and is the most important and readily available renewable raw material for textiles. The physical and chemical modification reactions leading to fibers are of great economic importance today. Recently developed technologies enable the production of filaments with the strongest tensile strength without dissolution or other harmful and complex chemical processes. Thus, fibers without solvents are on the verge of commercialization. This review discusses the technologies used to produce cellulose-based textiles, their surface modification, and recent trends towards sustainable cellulose sources, such as bacterial nanocellulose. The life cycle assessment of various cellulose fiber production methods is also discussed.
The textile industry has developed over the years. Different types of fibers have been produced to meet the needs and requirements of people, with polyester, cotton and viscose being the most commonly used. However, these fibers have environmental impacts associated with the processing and transportation of the raw material, the manufacturing of the fibers, and the disposal of the products and byproducts. Currently, the most environmentally friendly cellulose fibers on the market are produced using the Lyocell process. Current trends include development of filaments without the use of solvents, development of new solvents and new sources of fibers, which include various nanocelluloses, namely bacterial cellulose. This offers better prospects in terms of sustainability. However, large-scale production of this biotech cellulose has yet to be demonstrated. More research is needed to increase production and reduce production costs.
Chemical cellulose fibers are on the rise. Since their discovery more than 100 years ago, they have played an important role in the textile industry. Throughout history, their commercialization has faced one major problem: price. These fibers are more expensive than cotton and much more expensive than man-made fibers. But the world has changed. Population growth and increasing economic power in some underdeveloped economies are putting enormous pressure on some industries, especially those that produce vital goods, such as the garment textile industry. In order for textile production to increase, fiber production must also increase. Cotton cannot cope with this increase as there is no land available for cultivation, nor can synthetic fibers, which pose major problems in terms of recyclability, biodegradability, availability of raw materials in the future and pollution from microplastics. MMCF (man-made cellulosic fiber) will play a very important role in meeting these needs. And in the eternal quest for optimization, MMCF will continue to evolve along the entire value chain to minimize its environmental footprint by improving production methods and raw material supply.
Rapid population growth and careless consumption of natural resources are causing serious global problems such as air and water pollution and global warming. Fossil fuels account for more than 50% of the world's energy sources, and based on current water consumption, water resources are likely to decrease by 30% in 2050. In recent decades, the environmental problems caused by mankind have reached dangerous levels, making the search for and adoption of more environmentally sustainable processes an imperative paradigm shift.
In this context, environmental impact assessment becomes very important to evaluate the environmental impact of industrial activities. LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) can be used to assess the impact of a product, process or activity on the environment. "Cradle to Gate" studies LCA take into account the raw materials and fuels used, as well as all the processes that take place until the product is delivered at the factory gate for further processing; "Cradle to Grave" includes, in addition to the later processes, the processes after production until the end of the product's (garment's) life.