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Study Shows Naia Fibers Disintegrate, Biodegrade in Ocean Within Months

Eastman, the producer of sustainably sourced Naia cellulosic fiber, has received further scientific evidence that the cellulose diacetate (CDA)-based material at its roots disintegrates and biodegrades in the ocean within months.

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean research, exploration and education based on Cape Cod, led the study that demonstrated that “CDA-based materials disintegrate and biodegrade in the ocean orders of magnitude faster (months) than previously reported (decades).”

CDA is largely derived from wood pulp, making it biobased, Eastman noted. Naia cellulosic fiber is responsibly sourced from sustainably managed pine and eucalyptus forests, and it is produced in a safe, closed-loop process where solvents are recycled back into the system for reuse.

A new study from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution shows Naia cellulosic fiber disintegrates and biodegrades in the ocean within months.
Garments featuring Naia Renew staple fibers. Eastman

“These materials are breaking down on timescales of months.” said study co-author Collin Ward, assistant scientist in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department at WHOI. “This challenges the perception that they persist for decades. We attacked this question from so many different angles using a wide range of tools, from pictures all the way up to multimillion-dollar mass spectrometers. Every single line of evidence converged to the same answer: These materials are breaking down on timescales of months. This challenges the perception that they persist for decades.”

The study showed the comparative disintegration of similarly constructed fabrics under identical seawater conditions. Fabric that is 100 percent Naia completely disintegrated at 13 weeks, compared to 100 percent cotton at 11 weeks and 100 percent polyester, which showed no visual signs of disintegration throughout the 25-week incubation period.

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“These initial findings on the fate of CDA-based materials in the ocean, combined with previous reports in terrestrial and wastewater systems, represent a positive step towards identifying high utility, bio-based plastics with low environmental persistence,” the study said.

Ruth Farrell, global marketing director for Eastman’s textiles business, said the company has a vision and strategy “to address climate change, mainstream circularity, and build a more inclusive and equitable world.’

“We are pleased that the results of the WHOI study confirm that Naia cellulosic fibers will not persist in our oceans,” Farrell said.

The Eastman Naia team works closely with global sustainability-focused organizations like the Textile Exchange, Accelerating Circularity, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Canopy and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical.

Naia is in the process of obtaining TÜV OK biodegradable marine certification from TÜV Austria. Naia is already certified by TÜV Austria as biodegradable in freshwater and soil environments, as well as compostable in industrial settings. Naia staple fiber is also compostable in home settings.

Eastman employs approximately 14,000 people around the world and serves customers in more than 100 countries. The company, headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., had 2021 revenues of approximately $10.5 billion.