April 11, 2021

Forests stomp on the sustainable catwalk


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Galicia has proposed to carry out a strategic integration of the textile and forestry sectors, taking advantage of its great experience in both fields. The sustainable management of Galician forests through the production of textile fibers from viscose is one of the projects that are part of the Pole for the Transformation of Galicia, a public-private collaboration initiative that groups eight projects with which the Xunta de Galicia intends to apply for the European Next Generation funds, creating 30,000 jobs.

From the Regional Ministry of Economy they point out that “the project is aimed at sustainable forest management, as well as the use of other waste with a cellulosic component, for the manufacture of sustainable textile fibers, such as lyocell”. The plant will have a capacity of 150,000-200,000 tons per year and “it will have the highest sustainability standards, boost the ecosystem services that forests provide to society and with cutting-edge technology,” they highlight. The investment figure programmed for the textile fiber production project would be 1,140 million euros, thanks to public-private collaboration. “The financing would be specified when it is known if it is finally eligible for European funds and what amount it could receive through this mechanism,” clarifies the Galician administration.

«This project tries to square several interesting strategic lines, based on the European Green Deal: decarbonization, materials based on biological resources and with a strategic integration of sectors “, it indicates Juan Picos, Director of the Forestry Engineering School of Pontevedra, of the University of Vigo. “It can favor both sectors because it seeks to complete, from the forestry point of view, the production cycles, and is linked to a strategic sector such as textiles,” he adds.

Bioeconomy

The aim is to enhance these value-added products in Spain “and also to do so through the production of a material based on the bioeconomy, substituting other products that come from fibers”, highlights the forestry engineer. Juan Picos also highlights the importance of this initiative that involves «attract investment, it is a play to many bands». In his opinion, it is about attracting investments in the sustainable fiber sector from anywhere in the world. “In Galicia there is knowledge, the raw material of the forestry sector and the will that comes from a sustainable forestry plan,” he points out. To promote the project, it is necessary to set up the discourse well and have “the ability to finance all companies, probably some with Galician capital, to make it a viable business,” he points out.

To understand the potential of this project, we must bear in mind that we are talking about productive vocation forests and that since the 1990s Galicia has been working on a sustainable forestry plan. At an international level, products that want to be green must be in the forest certification system. «The wood used in Galicia complies with all state legislation and there are also a series of certification schemes, its traceability is audited. When the product reaches the final consumer, the journey made by the wood can be known, and it must be reflected on the label, ”says the school director.

We are talking about a opportunity sector, which is going to grow a lot and in which new patents and technology will be developed. “You have to get on the boat now before it sets sail, the logical thing is to take advantage of our knowledge of the forestry and textile sector. In ten years we will see things that we did not even imagine», Warns. ‘Wood-based textiles are natural polymer chemical fibers. Through a chemical transformation they become tissue and are biodegradable “, he explains. Antonio Solé, consultant training in textile technology, and teacher at the European Institute of Design. Fibers such as viscose, modal, polinosic or lyocell, all of them cellulosic, “are very much in fashion, even bamboo, although it does not come from wood,” he adds.

Much future

For this expert in the field, it is clear that “biofibers are going to grow. What’s more, We are not talking about high priced fibers, they are affordable. Since the fiber is obtained, the technology used is the standard one. Having a textile fiber factory is, in his opinion, a necessity. «We are deindustrialized and more in the textile sector. All European companies sold their ‘know how’ and machinery to China to cut costs. We do not have the capacity to create tissue, as could be seen at the beginning of the pandemic, “he clarifies.

Experts emphasize that this type of fiber is affordable and does not drive up costs

They are here to stay. In a fashion sector that needs to be increasingly sustainable, biofibers, which are biodegradable, are far from being a fad.

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