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Lenzing on Why Closing the Loop Cannot Be a Solo Venture

When it comes to circularity and closing the loop, is collaboration the new competition?

To make real change, companies need to come together to build systems that span the entire supply chain. This spirit of collaboration is central to wood-based fiber manufacturer Lenzing Group’s circularity efforts and recycling innovations.

As an industry, there is a great deal of confusion, misconceptions and even circularity-washing, and without clear definitions, terms are misused and not understood. Circularity has more than one lens.

“Lenzing defines circularity as the ability to keep products in use within the hierarchy of circularity, and our perspective includes end of life as certified biodegradable and compostable fibers,” said a company spokesperson, adding that when products cannot be recycled further, TENCEL™ fibers can break down in soil and water.

Lenzing also offers TENCEL™ Lyocell with REFIBRA™ technology, which involves taking 30 percent cotton scraps and making them into pulp, which is then blended with wood pulp to produce the same quality fiber as the company’s virgin TENCEL™ Lyocell. The company looks at the advantages of a carrier fiber that can be blended with shorter staple mechanically recycled fibers. 

Circularity evolution

“No one was talking about circularity five years ago, which meant a tremendous amount of education needed to be done,” said the spokesperson. “Trying to explain that cotton scraps become TENCEL™ Lyocell fiber was a challenge and required many tools to help explain the fiber process. Even after education, designers still wanted to label it as cotton rather than lyocell. Now, we are finally over that hurdle and the industry as a whole is moving towards circularity. It is a case of rising tides lift all boats—we are ready to set sail.”

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REFIBRA™ technology was launched with 20 percent post-industrial waste content and is now at a 30 percent mix of post-industrial and post-consumer waste content. Next for REFIBRA™ technology is more collaborations within the supply network to reach a goal of 50 percent post-consumer content by 2025. Lenzing is also looking to expand our recycled fiber portfolio beyond TENCEL™ Lyocell with LENZING™ ECOVERO™ Viscose and TENCEL™ Modal.

“Collaboration is the new competition.”

No matter how many innovations Lenzing launches, it sees various types of collaboration as the next important step. The company’s collaborative efforts are with supply networks as well as brands, and it actively participates in the nonprofit Accelerating Circularity (AC) with a board seat, and AC’s U.S. trials and E.U. trials to collectively determine the obstacles we need to overcome.

Additionally, Lenzing has expanded into commercial brand launches for consumers to have easy access to products with recycled components. New brand programs this year include Everlane, Hanky Panky, Gap, Parade, Tentree, Timberland, Nebia home, as well as continued programs with Levi’s, Boyish and Kings of Indigo.

“Collaborations are needed within the supply network to include new entrants like collectors, sorters and processors to complete the loop,” the spokesperson said. “Expectations on lead time, price and quality need to be adjusted with retailers and brands. Collaboration is the new competition.”

In addition, it is crucial that media acts as a stakeholder in moving circularity forward by fairly presenting the story, using science-based and -backed claims, and leveraging reliable voices within the story to help communicate the topic.

For more information on Lenzing, click here.