Viscose set to give textile industry in Indonesia an edge in sustainability

The fashion industry is notorious for its harmful impact on the planet and is said to be one of the largest polluters in the world, second only to the oil industry. The fashion industry is valued at around a staggering $2.4 trillion and currently employs over 75 million people globally.

Launched in March, the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion has stated that not only is the industry the second-biggest consumer of water, but that it is also already responsible for 8 to 10 percent of global carbon emissions. This is more than the combination of all international flights and maritime shipping.

It’s stated that fashion consumers generate up to 92 million tons of trash and on average by ’60 percent more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago.’ This equates to up to 4 percent of the world’s waste each year and all points towards a harmful, but not unpredictable, conclusion.

As people become more conscious of the environment and the effect our impact has on it, the global fashion industry has begun to stop using ‘sustainability’ as a buzz word and instead has listened to the increasing demand for more sustainable fabrics as well as finished garments.

Viscose is the third most commonly used fibre in the world. It is often used as a sustainable alternative to oil-based synthetic textiles such as polyester, acrylic, nylon and spandex.

Introduced in the late 1800s as an alternative to silk, viscose is a plant-based fibre. This is also known as rayon and is inexpensive to make and can be used in many different ways, including as casual wear, denim, socks, bed linen, towels, face masks and wipes.

Viscose fabric wrinkles easily and may shrink when it is washed, but there are many other great qualities that make it attractive to manufacturers also; it’s soft, smooth, lightweight and breathable, has excellent colour retention and absorbency, draping well and being versatile by blending nicely with other fibres.

However, viscose’s eco-friendly reputation is not always in line manufacturers’ sustainable practices. This highlights the importance of sustainability within the supply chain, as well as sustainable sourcing, responsible manufacturing and labour rights.

One Indonesian company in particular, is determined to craft and maintain a good reputation – in comparison to the companies within India and Indonesia who have been linked to using toxic chemicals to produce the viscose and causing much environmental damage in the process.

Part of the diversified business group Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), founded by the conglomerate Sukanto Tanoto, Asia Pacific Rayon (APR) claims to be ‘the first integrated fibre manufacturer in Indonesia with the capabilities to produce viscose based on wood derived from sustainably-managed plantations’, with trees being harvested within five years for the next cycle of planting and harvesting.

As it is targeting both domestic and international markets, the company’s production across the entire value chain – from raw materials to resources, technology and design creation – takes place in the country.

The company was only established 10 months ago. However: ‘We are already exporting to around 14 countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey and Germany. Our buyers also come from Indonesian regions, such as East Java and Central Java,’ said Asia Pacific Rayon director, Basrie Kamba, during a press conference in Bali on the 7th November.

China is the current global leader in the market for viscose fibre producing companies, and India and Indonesia follow behind in second and third position.

With the tagline ‘everything Indonesia’, APR sources the fibre from its own eucalyptus and acacia plantations in Pangkalan Kerinci subdistrict of Pelalawan regency, Riau. This is then processed and their own viscose mill located within the same area.

This mill has an annual capacity of 240,000 tons, with plans to further develop a yarn-spinning mill in 2020.

‘Up to 4 million people are currently working in Indonesia’s textile industry,’ said Basir. ‘As sustainable fashion garners global attention, viscose can become an alternative as well as the future textile material; to realise the dream of making Indonesia one of the world’s textile and fashion powers.’

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