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How Birla Cellulose evolves its circular textile fibers Liva Reviva – Sourcing Journal

Of all the ecological pressures facing the fashion industry, perhaps the most pressing is waste. Every year, fashion generates 92 million tons of textile waste, according to a study published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.

Circularity offers a chance to move away from take, make, waste. Instead of depleting resources, circular systems allow for reuse. Man-made cellulosic fiber (MMCF) manufacturer Birla Cellulose has answered the circular call with its viscose Liva Reviva, launched in late 2019. By using textile waste as a raw material for viscose, Birla is reducing the amount of wood pulp needed. The fibers thus obtained consume 60% less water and 20 to 25% less energy than conventional viscose.

“Waste is a problem, but it is also an opportunity,” said Mukul Agrawal, director of sustainable development at Birla Cellulose. “We want to provide a solution that can reduce pressure on new resources. This is a key part of our strategy: how can we use existing waste, which is recycled, landfilled or incinerated, to make fresh fibres, and use it in significant quantities which can create a very positive impact on the global fashion value chain. ”

For its wood-based fibers, Birla Cellulose uses responsibly harvested inputs from Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), Program for the Endorsement of Forest (PEFC™) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) certified sources. Although wood is a renewable natural resource, Agrawal noted that the limited availability of FSC-approved wood makes conservation important.

To make Liva Reviva, cotton waste is transformed into biomass which can be fed directly into the viscose production process. Many commercial circular MMCF solutions create pulp from cotton waste, but Birla says bypassing this step saves additional water, chemicals and energy.

Since the production process is identical once the biomass is added, the fibers are indistinguishable from virgin viscose. “When we talk to brands and our downstream industry, as soon as you say it’s a recycled fiber, they feel like there must be something inferior in the quality or properties of that fiber. “, said Agrawal. “Liva Reviva is absolutely the same quality as our standard viscose fiber, and it can be used in any application where viscose is used.”

Liva Reviva is currently in the market for clothing from brands such as Selected from Bestseller, H&M Group and Pimkie. Birla’s fiber was also part of Fashion for Good’s Full Circle Textiles project, in which fashion groups Kering and PVH worked with their supply chains to develop garments using recycled fibers. Further raising consumer awareness, the fiber was also featured in a dress design for Canopy’s “Circular Chic” campaign.

To help brands authenticate Liva Reviva, Birla embeds a traceability marker into the fiber. A blockchain tool then tracks the fiber through the supply chain. By scanning a QR code provided by Birla, a brand or end consumer can experience the entire journey from fiber to finished garment.

Scaling circularity

Since the launch of Liva Reviva, Birla Cellulose has rapidly increased its production. Originally, the production line had an output of only 2 tons per day. This has gradually increased and in 2022 Birla plans to reach 120 tons per day, which will further reduce energy consumption. The company is aiming for 100,000 tonnes per year by 2024, or more than 274 tonnes per day.

Currently, Liva Reviva is made from 20% recycled content and 80% wood pulp. After trials using a greater proportion of recycled content, Birla will begin commercial production of Liva Reviva with 30% recycled cotton when transitioning to the larger production line this spring. Looking ahead, Birla intends to manufacture Liva Reviva with 50% recycled cotton by 2024.

Increasing recycled content may change the properties of the final viscose product. Birla has been able to manufacture 30% recycled Liva Reviva with zero impact, but continues to optimize the process before releasing fibers with higher recycled content.

Liva Reviva focuses on cotton because it is the most abundant natural textile fiber. While Liva Reviva uses both pre- and post-consumer waste, the raw material is more heavily weighted to pre-consumer sources. The recycling process requires all-cotton textiles with less than 1% impurities, and with post-consumer clothing there is less certainty about the composition of the material than there is with waste industrial.

BirlaCellulose

To source cotton waste, Birla relies on partnerships with its downstream suppliers. Brands such as PVH and Tesco ask their manufacturers in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka to send textile waste to Birla for recycling.

Compared to virgin viscose, Liva Reviva has additional operational costs associated with sourcing and transporting cotton waste. However, the price premium is only about 20-50 cents per garment, and at the fiber level, Liva Reviva is about 20-30% higher than conventional viscose. The price difference has already diminished since the launch of Liva Reviva, and Agrawal is confident that it will diminish further as circularity develops.

“We were able to bring prices down by optimizing our process and developing reverse waste logistics,” Agrawal said. “As the scaling occurs, these prices are expected to decline over the next two years.”

Click on here to learn more about Liva Reviva, circular fibers made from recycled content.