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TENCEL™ insights
11 / 03 / 2024
Lenzing’s perspective on the future of circularity and recent industry setback
TENCEL™ insights
11 / 03 / 2024
Lenzing’s perspective on the future of circularity and recent industry setback

Over the last couple of years, there have been a lot of discussions about the lack of recycled textile pulp in the textile industry. Most recently, the Renewcell bankruptcy had the industry wondering whether there is still a future in a circular industry model. To help value chain partners navigate the uncertainties ahead, Florian Heubrandner, Executive Vice President Global Textiles Business at Lenzing AG, shares his insights on what the future holds for circular economy in the textile industry.

Q: Across the industry, there seems to be a lot of definitions of circularity. What does circularity mean for Lenzing?

In essence, to all of us at Lenzing, circularity means giving waste a new life, where the waste of today becomes the raw material of tomorrow. In fact, we are dedicated to a fully-fledged circular economy by striving to give waste a new life in all aspects of our core business.

The introduction of our pioneering REFIBRA™ technology has been one of our key circularity milestones, allowing us to give pre- and post-consumer cotton waste a second life on a commercial scale. It is indeed unfortunate that we have been forced to pause the production of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers with REFIBRA™ technology due to a lack of suitable recycled pulp that meets the specifications required for the production of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers. On the other hand, we are glad to expand our REFIBRA™ technology to LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fibers to our portfolio to address the industry’s need for alternative fibers with circularity features.

As an industry leader in cellulosic fiber production, we will carry on with our use of regenerative and recycled raw materials and continue to think circular to design out waste and pollution in all our processes. Most importantly, we will proceed to innovate processes that use and reuse materials again and again.

Q: Circular economy has been a cornerstone of Lenzing’s corporate strategy for some time. With the recent industry setback, what will the future hold for a circular textile value chain? Is it still the right way ahead?

The environmental impact of the textile industry has been one of the most discussed topics across the global value chain in recent years. To reduce the negative impact on the planet, the textile industry’s transition from a linear to a circular economy is not only inevitable, but also imminent. Despite being an inevitable trend, globally, the textile industry ecosystem is still in the early stages of the transformation to a circular economy.

Like any significant change, it takes time to adapt to new business models and work processes. This is where innovation and collaboration bring the most value. At Lenzing, we are optimistic about achieving our long-term business and sustainability goals by advancing the circular economy with the usage of regenerative and recycled raw materials.

To help industry partners navigate through this unprecedented transition, we will continue to focus on the innovation of fiber production and application and engage in collaborations that help drive systematic change within the global value chain.

Q: Thanks for the assurance, but that keeps people wondering – is the paused production of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers with REFIBRA™ technology a direct result from the Renewcell update?

Both are separate issues. The pause in the production of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers with REFIBRA™ technology is due to the recent halt in the supply of recycled cotton waste pulp from another supplier.

In fact, over the last couple of years, the market has been suffering from a lack of suitable recycled pulp that meets Lenzing’s strict standards for the production of high-quality lyocell fibers. This shortage has resulted in a lack of materials to manufacture adequate quantities of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers with REFIBRA™ technology.

As we work tirelessly to identify alternative solutions with textile recycling partners to resolve the situation, we are also exploring collaborations with new partners.

In the meantime, we have been in touch with value chain partners and customers on the adoption of alternative fibers, like standard TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers and LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fibers with REFIBRA™ technology, to meet their production needs. The production and supply of LENZING™ ECOVERO™ Viscose fibers with REFIBRA™ technology remains normal, as the recycled pulp comes from different suppliers and the production processes are inherently different. As an alternative to TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers with REFIBRA™ technology, customers can switch to standard TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers without compromising fiber performance benefits. Customers can also switch to LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fibers with REFIBRA™ technology to address circularity requirements in consumers products.

Q: To those textile value chain players who are interested in exploring the circular economy amidst a tumultuous industry environment, what do you have to say to them?

As with many evolving changes in the industry, continuity hinges on the collective efforts across the entire value chain. Transformation cannot be achieved in isolation. It is crucial to establish a common goal and harness support from partners throughout the value chain – both upstream and downstream to collaboratively forge a new business model together.

Collaboration is key to effecting meaningful change. That is why Lenzing has been working closely with industry partners, from spinners to fabric mills, product manufacturers, and brands to drive circularity across the textile value chain. Together, we will be able to steer through different hurdles and build a resilient circular business model together.

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