Biodegradable / Compostable Clothing

cotton field

Recently i learned the difference between biodegradable and compostable. When something is biodegradable, it means it is degradable, but it also means something more: it means that it can be broken down by the metabolism by micro-organisms. When something is compostable, it means that it biodegrades, but it also means something more: it will degrade within a certain amount of time, under certain conditions, (source

We all know that natural fibres such as wool, linen, hemp and cotton are both biodegradable and compostable but I’m reading conflicting reports on whether synthetic fabric made from plant fibres such are either biodegradable or compostable.

Ed Mass from Yes it’s Organic says that Rayon, Viscose, Modal and Tencel are biodegradable but worrying Wikipedia states that many kinds of marine creatures eat rayon fibres and that they end up in their bloodstream which can be fatal for them, and a recent ocean survey found that rayon contributed to 56.9% of the total fibres found in deep ocean areas. Unfortunately neither of these claims appear to be backed up by any independent research.

In his post Rayon Recycling, Fred Decker of Demand Media says rayon is compostable and he quotes the a research paper from the Journal of Applied Polymer Science as proof but i don’t have full access to this database so can’t verify it and the abstract seems to suggest that it’s not a cut and dried issue and is heavily dependant on conditions.

I’ll report back with more information when i get a chance to look into it more.



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