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Home textiles encompass many products from bedding and upholstery to rugs and towels. Each of these textiles require different functional qualities, which often can provide a challenge for brands in selecting the right materials in their journey toward sustainability.
To discuss how the TENCEL™ brand is alleviating these challenges, and what responsibilities consumers have in our collective commitment to a sustainable future, we are joined by Ebru Bayramoglu, Director of Global Business Development at Lenzing Group AG, for the next segment of our “TENCEL™ Insights” Series.
Q: Now more than ever, innovation and sustainability go hand-in-hand. How have manufacturers and brands been diverting from the status quo when developing home textile solutions?
Ebru: One great ambition of our time is the complete transition to a fully sustainable value chain. Circular economy is at the front of mind and already, manufacturers and brands have been in the process of rethinking their operations to minimize their environmental impact.
Recognizing the abundance of industrial and domestic waste, home textile producers are diverting from traditional resources to explore alternative raw materials. Many seek to replace polluting synthetics by reinvigorating unwanted resources into new byproducts, and even pushing industry boundaries like material design researcher Studio Sanne Visser. They recognized human hair is a significant waste stream that has great potential to employ a close-loop system, and experimented with various techniques to create functional products such as shoulder straps, water bottle holders and large bags.[WK1]
Transparency has also permeated the whole home textile industry. We are seeing organizations build collaborative platforms, develop partnerships to facilitate exchange of resources, and establish databases to enable transparency from the manufacturer to the end-consumer. Our recent collaboration with Södra, a world-class producer of pulp, is a great example of this. The cooperation involves the transfer of knowledge between the two companies and a joint process development followed by a capacity expansion for pulp from post-consumer waste. The goal is to process 25,000 tons of textile waste per year by 2025.
Our partnership aims to give textile recycling a huge boost by developing technologies towards a broader, industrial-scale use of post-consumer cellulosic waste. The jointly developed pulp OnceMore® will subsequently also be used as a raw material for the production of Lenzing’s TENCEL™ x REFIBRA™ branded specialty fibers, which push for circularity and transparency throughout the supply chain.
Last year, we launched a blockchain-enabled traceability platform powered by TextileGenesis™ which offers complete supply chain traceability for TENCEL™ and LENZING™ ECOVERO™ branded fibers, from fiber to spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, up to the garment-making process. We will undoubtedly see more unconventional development of home textile solutions to reshape the home textile industry into a more resilient and responsible business.
Q: What responsibilities do consumers have during this period, as home textile brands transition toward a sustainable future?
Ebru: The home textiles segment usually has a slower seasonal cycle than other parts of the textiles industry. This means consumers purchase items less frequently and keep them for longer. For brands to become more sustainable, consumers must drive trends by purchasing eco-friendly products and promoting their benefits.
To better safeguard the environment, we urge end-users to become more informed about sustainable home textiles products. A good start is to carefully read the product tag before purchasing. Consumers could also spend time researching the environmental credibility of brands and learn more about the materials they use as well as be on the constant lookout for products with sustainability certifications. Often, sustainable raw materials have superior performance characteristics which make eco-friendly materials even more attractive.
Consumers are powerful influencers in the sustainable home textiles movement. After all, market forces are primarily driven by demand. As a result, purchase decisions can inform and better guide how brands tailor product lines in future seasonal cycles and development planning. By purchasing sustainable home textiles pieces, consumers are sending a clear message to brands about the type of products they want to see in the industry.
Q: What can consumers do after purchasing home textiles to reduce their environmental footprint at home?
Ebru: Taking good care of home textiles after they have been purchased can influence the long-term ecological impact of these products. By following instructions on care labels, consumers are able to extend the product’s lifecycle. Additionally, when purchasing home products, it is important to consider the material list as a key indicator of whether they have been produced sustainably.
Moreover, when home textiles products reach the end of their life, I would recommend consumers to look for ways to recycle these products – such as dropping them off at local recycling points and textile banks. Alternatively, you could see if a charity needs that item and take it there to be used again. Just as brands should look to recycle where possible, consumers should do the same to promote circularity. In cases where products are biodegradable, they should be taken to local facilities that can compost certified items.
Sustainable home textiles products are available and becoming increasingly popular. All it takes is for a few simple habit changes to product care, and a little research on raw materials, and everyone can create a sustainable sanctuary of long-lasting comfort.