Materials: what sustainable developments in textile and leather production? #96


In its 2020 report, Textile Exchange shows stability in the production of polyester and cotton, which remain the star materials of the sector. But the report also shows, within each type of material, a strengthening of the share of production adopting social and/or environmental requirements.

From an overall point of view, the figures for the 2019 financial year show a market dominated by polyester (52.2%) and cotton (23.3%). While the former is slightly increasing its market share (+0.7 point), the latter is experiencing a slight contraction (-1.2 point) in favour of other plant-based materials. Jute, coconut fibre, linen, sisal and others now account for 5.9% of the market.

Polyamides, for their part, show stable levels between 2018 and 2019, representing 5% of the market. The same goes for other synthetic fibres, which still account for 5.7% of the market, with recycled elastomers (Roica, Lycra Ecomade, Sheiflex, Spanflex, etc.) and recycled acrylics (e.g. Acrycycle), as well as elastomers (e.g. Lycra 162R) and polyurethanes (e.g. Susterra) made from natural materials.

Cellulosic fibres are also stable. Last year, these fibres captured nearly 6.5% of market share. Viscose still largely dominates this field (79%), ahead of acetate (13%), lyocell (4.3%) and modal (2.8%).

In terms of animal fibres, the ratio for sheep’s wool is around 1%, compared with 0.05% for wools from other animals. In addition, feathers (0.024% market share) and silk (0.001%).

While the world fibre market reached 111 million megatons in 2019, and is expected to reach 146 million in 2030 if the trend continues, world leather production would be around 7 million megatons.

Gradual shift towards recycled or natural materials

The report is also an opportunity for Textile Exchange to look at the place of what the organisation refers to as “Preferred Materials”. Materials whose production has incorporated social or environmental commitments. From 2013 to 2019, the share of virgin cotton production corresponding to these materials has thus increased from 5 to 25 per cent of total cotton production, to reach 6.4 million megatonnes out of a total of 25.7 million.