Cotton fibers, trees, and bamboo are all comprised of cellulose and lignin. The rayon, viscose, and lyocell process transforms this plant material into fibers for textiles. The cellulosic fiber process mixes the plant material with toxic solvents and extrudes it through spinnerets into fiber. Most (but not all) of this solvent is reclaimed in modern processes; however, most rayon and viscose mills release chemically polluted water.
Lenzing AG, an Austrian company, produces the largest amount of Tencel lyocell fiber. Tencel production reuses almost all water and solvents, but uses toxic chemicals like N-Methylmorpholine-N-Oxide. Extremely expensive infrastructure is necessary for the process, which primarily consumes eucalyptus trees and some European beech wood. These tree plantations consume 1/20th the amount of water as average cotton cultivation.
The negatives are the higher price, complicated transport, industrial expenses, and dangerous chemicals versus organic or recycled cotton (22). If people cut down more trees than they replant, it leads to desertification as trees are essential to the water cycle. Furthermore, a significant portion of the worldwide cellulosic fiber infrastructure produces fibers that require blending because of fibrillation. Blended cellulosic fabrics are more likely to pill and the garment has a short lifespan leading to more production in turn greater water consumption.