Posted by Benjamin Canaguier
Full LCA available on the web
Publication year: 
Quality and sources
Is the study a: 
Detailed LCA
Was a critical review performed?: 
Is the study compliant with ISO 14044?: 
Sponsor name(s): 
Sponsor type: 
Group Science, Technology and Society (STS), Copernicus Institute, Utrecht University
Li Shen
Martin K. Patel
Practitioner(s) type: 
Functional unit: 
1 t of staple fibre

LCA to assess the environmental impacts of three types of man- made cellulose fibre (Viscose, Modal and Tencel). The LCA results are compared with conventional cotton (as benchmark), novel bio-based fibre (i.e., PLA), and synthetic fibres (i.e., PET and PP).

The environmental benefits of Lenzing Viscose Austria and Lenzing Modal are largely attributed to low fossil energy requirements in the pulp and fibre production. This is a result of both process integration and the use of renewable energy. Furthermore, Lenzing Viscose Austria and Lenzing Modal cause much lower process emissions (SO2 and NOx) than Lenzing Viscose Asia, leading to lower impacts on human toxicity, photochemical oxidant formation, acidification and eutrophication.

Tencel Austria 2012 has a better environmental profile than Tencel Austria for nearly all indicators (except for ozone layer depletion, human toxicity and eutrophication). The environmental benefits are the result of low energy consumption, low chemical use, low CO2 emissions, low SO2 emissions and low water consumption. A further important reason is the supply of process heat from municipal solid waste incineration.

Compared to Lenzing Viscose Austria, the higher impact of Lenzing Viscose Asia is primarily attributable to process fuels, process electricity supplied from the public grid, the use of market pulp and local sourcing of chemicals while the emissions from the viscose process are a comparatively small contributor to the overall impact.

The main findings for the system cradle to factory gate plus waste incineration with energy recovery (60% energy recovery rate):

  • All Lenzing man-made cellulose fibres studied are better than PET, PP, and PLA. Cotton requires relatively little energy; the Net NREU of cotton is lower than in the case of PET, PP, PLA (both with and without wind), Lenzing Viscose Asia and Tencel Austria. Only three fibres studied have a lower Net NREU than cotton, namely, Lenzing Viscose Austria, Lenzing Modal, and Tencel Austria 2012.
  • All the Lenzing man-made cellulose fibres studied except for Lenzing Viscose Asia have a lower Net GWP than PET, PP, cotton and PLA (both with and without wind)
  • Lenzing man-made cellulose fibres can offer 1.3-5 times more Net NREU savings per hectare land use compared to cotton. Except for Lenzing Viscose Asia, man-made cellulose fibres offer 2-7 times more Net GWP reductions per hectare land use
  • For end-of-life MSWI with energy recovery, applying different allocation methods (allocation factors: 0% and 87.5% to fibre waste) instead of system expansion significantly increases the Net NREU (by 20-90%) and Net GWP (by 6-75%) for all fibres. However, the ranking of Net NREU among all fibres does not change; the ranking of Net GWP shows a minor change (Lenzing Viscose Asia moves from the second highest to the third highest based on economic allocation).
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