95% lyocell and 5% elastane. It's compostable.
Updated: Jan 12, 2020
Recently an acquaintance contacted me that she had bought a T-shirt made from wood and that it's totally compostable. She had bought it in a physical shop and the sales assistant had informed her of this fact. "Fact". She was happy, because she had done something positive for an industry that is still known as the second biggest pollutor causing the climate's crisis. I asked her about the materials and she reported "95% lyocell and 5% elastane". Lyocell is surely made from woodpulp as the fabric is made from cellulosic fibers. The Austrian company Lenzing AG has recently been getting the attention it deserves (finally), for producing lyocell with >95% less waste. Their fabric is called Tencel® and is trademarked. This means that not every time you see that your garment is made from lyocell that this company Lenzing AG was involved. 95% lyocell = 0% Tencel® and this means that we still do not know how exactly the fabric of this garment was made.
What lyocell and elastane have in common is that both fabrics are made by humans. However, lyocell comes from an organic fiber, whereas elastane is synthetic and based on crude oil (the stuff that is non-renewable and hazardous on so many levels). Lyocell is biodegradable and should be made in a non-toxic chemical process (with fancier words: artificially engineered).
From the PDF referred to below, I got that lyocell is a sub-category of Rayon and that"Lenzing™ fibers are fully compostable according to the European Norm EN 13432". Further, cellulose is one of the most abundant fibers on earth and TENCEL® branded lyocell fibers disintegrate completely within 4 months if composted in at a temperature that is perceived as ambient by the fibers. Page 17 of the report shows what the compost looks like over the course of 16 weeks. Source:https://sustainability.lenzing.com/fileadmin/template/pdf/WOW_2017_Biodegradability_of_wood-based_cellulose_fibers_Plasser_Rahbaran.pdf
Where do we look next?
On the website of Lenzing AG you can actually find brands that the company has partnered up with to have apparel made with Tencel®. Beware, however, that just because the names are connected, this does not mean that for every product you find from that brand, Tencel® has already been used in the process. This may sound as a given, but we all have our moments of being less alert, and your purchase does cast a vote every time.
How do we shop foolproof?
This is a question I am actively working on. Ideally, I give you a hands-on toolkit that you can just easily take with you when you go shopping, or have next to you when you shop online. Please bear with me while I'm working on this. For any suggestions, just leave a comment below or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org