By: Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA

Growth in fiber consumption would average annually around 3 to 4 percent.

Cotton is a valuable fiber in the mix for the textile sector. According to inputs from global brands, the industry can consume up to 31 million metric tons of cotton, said Robert van de Kerkhof, Chief Commercial Officer of Lenzing AG, Austria.

Who’s who in the textile fiber world gathered last week in the picturesque town of Dornbirn on the foot hills of Karren mountain range in Austria. About 700 delegates from over 30 countries discussed the state of the fiber industry with regard to its sustainability initiatives.

While the global consumption of cotton has remained flat at 28 million metric tons, there is potential for additional demand of 3 million metric tons. To a question from this scribe on the competition between regenerated fibers and cotton, van de Kerkhof emphasized the need for all sorts of fibers. There is no competition between Lyocell and cotton stressed van de Kerkhof. With an annual production capacity of 300,000 metric tons, Lyocell needs friendly partnership with sustainable fibers. Lenzing will have additional 100,000 metric tons of Lyocell for the textile industry, as it will have a new manufacturing plant in Thailand and will be online by the end of 2020. He appreciated the sustainability efforts undertaken by the global cotton industry, but there is more work to do, added van de Kerkhof. He highlighted few initiatives such as those by the Brazilian cotton sector, which is making planned efforts to develop in regions where there is good rainfall.

According to van de Kerkhof, new products can have blends of cotton with Lyocell to enhance attributes like strength. United States-based Cotton Incorporated is also promoting the concept of developing cotton rich blends to exploit the benefits of different fiber blends. New opportunities are emerging for cotton such as Lenzing’s cotton-based Lyocell fibers, “REFIBRA™.” Cotton for use in technical textiles in both virgin and processed forms are being exploited by many industries these days. Chennai, India-based WellGro United has partnered with a textile manufacturer in South India to deliver cotton for technical textiles.

The 58th annual Dornbirn Fiber Congress highlighted the need for innovation and networking for sustainable growth. And, more importantly, the immediate need for circular economy in the sector.