17 March 2009

It's Easy Being Green--If You Lie

There was a story in the Bombay Times recently about a fabric it claimed was both "green" and "glam": viscose rayon.

Where did anyone get the idea that rayon was "green"? They even called it "organic". Or maybe I am wrong and rayon really is a "green" material.

Rayon is a synthetic fiber made by dissolving cellulose in strong organic chemical solvents then extruding it into filaments the same way nylon and other synthetic polymer threads are made. The fibers are spun and woven into fabrics.

The main chemicals used are caustic soda (produced by electrolysis, a very energy-intensive process) , carbon disulfide (made from natural gas) and sulfuric acid. Grasim Industries of the Aditya Birla Group is the world's largest producer of Rayon.

It was invented in the 1850s and the current commercial technology for "viscose rayon" dates from 1894. The cellulose can come from wood pulp. Bamboo was mentioned in the article, I think. I suppose the source materials could be grown organically (withouth the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers or pest control agents). But rayon is something not found in nature, an industrial product, made by intensive chemical treatment with clearly un-organic chemicals. (The plants that make it are usually big polluters.)

Perhaps the designers have been deceived by the textile manufacturers, but I am sure they didn't put up much of a fight. Perhaps the journalists misinterpreted the information they were given, though usually they just uncritically repeat what they are told. That the manufacturer could fail to know the untruth of these assertions is unbelievable. Someone is deliberately confusing consumers for commercial gain.

Some are willing to exploit consumers' ignorance to make a quick rupee. Consumers should fight back and make it clear that they do not like being duped.

Crossposted from HaraBara's blog

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