Is Viscose Biodegradable?

group of young people in hte fields, wearing bamboo underware

By: Heather Bien

 

When choosing the clothing you want to wear, there’s a lot to consider, from price point to eco-friendly fabric to fit. The equation gets more complex if you want to make sure your garment is as good for the planet earth as it is for your confidence.

In recent years, many brands have begun to create clothing made from earth-friendly fabrics. For example, plant cellulose-derived viscose fabric comes from a natural fiber , sustainable sources like bamboo fiber. But is viscose biodegradable and is viscose a good material for eco-friendly clothing?

The short answer is that 100% viscose fabrics can indeed break down in about one year.1 However, keep in mind that many garments are made with viscose fiber blends that may not be completely biodegradable.

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Read on to learn about the ins and outs of this eco-friendly fabric and its advantages.

Bamboo viscose’s life cycle

bamboo viscose white underware drying in the sun

While you’re out browsing racks of potential new duds, you might come across a silky number labeled “viscose” and wonder where, exactly, the fabric comes from and if viscose is sustainable.

Viscose is a semi-synthetic fiber derived from plant cellulose. 

  • Cellulosic fiber is the main component of plant cell walls. This fibrous substance has a number of potential commercial applications and is the basis for products from biodegradable plastics to viscose.
  • Viscose fiber is made by applying chemical softeners to raw plant material (be it wood pulp, bamboo fiber, seaweed, or another source of a natural fiber).1 This process creates a viscous liquid that is then shaped and hardened into strands that can be woven into sustainable fabric from activewear to curtains to sheets.

In its sustainable fabric form, sustainable viscose is super smooth (and lays softly much like artificial silk), breathable, and feels cool on the skin. 

Because most of the remaining material is natural plant cellulose, sustainable viscose fabric can be biodegradable. As mentioned, 100% viscose takes roughly a year to break down, although that depends on factors like weight, density, and environment. This is a short time frame compared to other fabrics like wool that could take five years or more depending on how they’re manufactured.

Know your viscose

young man and womna in the fields, wearing bamboo sports clothes

While viscose can be biodegradable, you shouldn’t assume the top you’ve been rocking is okay to put in your backyard composter. Just like cotton, linen, and 100% natural fibers, viscose is often combined with other materials for improved stretch and may lead you to question, does viscose shrink?

If your garment contains any of the following features, it will not biodegrade:

  • A synthetic fiber blend including nylon, spandex, or other materials added to give your garment shape and give.
  • Buttons, zippers, or other adornments that are not made with 100% natural components.
  • Tags that are not biodegradable.

But that doesn’t mean you should place your old viscose in the garbage can either.

What to do with your used viscose

two young women lying in the fields in bamboo underware

While it’s possible to opt for all-natural fibers for some garments, others won’t have shape or stretch without the addition of plastics.

When it comes to sustainable clothing, and activewear in particular, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any options that are completely biodegradable. But not to despair! There are still ways to ensure that your worn-out viscose garments never end up in a landfill.

Instead of composting, you can:

  • Bring your garments to a sustainable textile recycling center where they can be repurposed for insulation and other meaningful uses.
  •  Think of crafty ways to reuse old garments yourself—think quilts, pet bedding, and more!

The other sustainable benefits of viscose

Sad to find out that your viscose might not completely biodegrade? Take heart in the other benefits of choosing fabrics that are derived from natural sources.

While not all viscose is equally eco-friendly, fabrics like bamboo viscose use a rapidly-growing, sustainable plant source. This carries advantages like the following:

  • Less deforestation – Viscose derived from wood pulp can lead to deforestation. Likewise, some completely natural fabrics are grown on monoculture farmland where native plants have no chance to thrive. In contrast, bamboo viscose allows for more native plants to continue growing, which slows down deforestation.3
  • More fresh air – Bamboo fibre creates 30% more oxygen in a given area compared to the same area size that trees would take up, meaning that the environment relishes in more fresh air for you and for everyone else when more bamboo is around.3

As an added bonus bamboo benefit, bamboo-derived viscose is light, breathable, and absorbent. That way you can feel good from head to toe every time you don your favorite viscose duds.

Bamboo viscose from Boody Eco Wear

While viscose can be completely biodegradable, it’s difficult to find form-fitting undies, leggings, and leotards that are free from stretchy nylon and elastic. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Shopping consciously for bamboo viscose means you’ll find comfortable basics that still carry benefits for the environment.

At Boody Eco Wear, we strive to make it effortless to find essentials for your day-to-day that are durable, eco-friendly, and accessible. Using sustainable growing practices and recyclable and compostable shipping containers, we have planet earth in mind at every step of your clothing’s journey.

From your favorite basic men’s bamboo shirts to your most trustworthy (and comfy) pair of sustainable underwear, we’ve got you covered on all fronts. You can feel good knowing that your staples are doing some good for the earth. 

About the Author:

Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.


Sources: 

  1. Close The Loop. End of Life.https://www.close-the-loop.be/en/phase/3/end-of-life 


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