Synthetic, Semi-synthetic and Blended Fabrics

Using information from the lesson and the Guide toSustainable Textiles Guide to Sustainable Textiles - Alternative Formats writean essay at least 800 words long describing your thoughts on the sustainabilityof synthetic, semi-synthetic and blended fabrics (make sure you mention all 3types). You may include additional sources as long as you cite them and listyour references at the bottom of the essay. See the attached rubric so you know how this essay will be graded. Somethings to consider are (you don't have to discuss all of these, they are justto get you thinking):

Are synthetic, semi-synthetic and blended fabrics lesssustainable than natural fabrics? If so, discuss which ones and why.

Does this information differ from your previous ideas of howsynthetic and semi-synthetic fabrics were made? If so, describe how youpreviously thought they were made.

Is much energy involved in the manufacture of synthetic andsemi-synthetic textiles?

What about the manufacture of these fabrics is potentiallyunsustainable?

Which of these fabrics does your wardrobe include?

Are there any types of fabrics you would avoid buying in thefuture?  Which ones and why?

Do you feel that the type of synthetic leather shown in thevideo a good alternative to leather from cow hide? This is a chance to for youto weigh your animal welfare concerns against a process that is energy andchemical intensive yet not as sturdy as real cowhide.


Natural: Includes cotton, linen, hemp, silk, wool, leatherand new fabrics such as Pinatex

Synthetic: Includes polyester, nylon (polyamide),acrylic/modacrylic, spandex, olefin, acetate, microfiber

Semi-synthetic: Includes rayon (also known as viscose andmade from wood pulp), modal (made from beech trees), bamboo/bamboo viscose,soysilk (made from soybean waste), Cupro (made from recycled cotton, SeaCell(from seaweed), lyocell, and Tencel

Blends: these are fabrics made from mixes of any of theabove types of fibers


Semi-synthetic fibers are derived from a naturally occurringfiber (usually cellulose) sourced from wood pulp, grass fiber (bamboo) orseaweed.   This cellulose is broken downthrough a chemical process and then reconstructed and spun into fiber. Thisprocess can be done sustainably and produce versatile fabrics. Some of thesefibers are trademarked, so look for the sign. In general, semi-syntheticfabrics are more sustainable than synthetics because:

They aren't made from fossil fuels, although of courseenergy from fossil fuels is likely used in the manufacturing process

They can be dyed with natural dyes, which are less hazardousthan synthetic dyes

They dont shed microplastics

They biodegrade

Unfortunately, their production impacts can include:

Using large amounts of energy

Using non-renewable resources (fossil fuels)

Creation of hazardous waste

Destruction of rainforest to grow more wood to make fabric


Blends/blended fabrics are fabrics made from mixes of any ofthe above types of fibers. Often a natural or semi-synthetic fabric is blendedwith a synthetic to take advantage of properties of each type. Blends come withall the issues of each of their constituent fabric types; for instance,blending a synthetic fiber into a fabric makes it non-biodegradable andnon-recyclable. Benefits of blended fabrics include:

Better Performance Increased moisture absorbency,resilience, or wrinkle resistance

Shape Retention Garment does not 'bag out' or lose shape

Improved Texture Improve feel, shine or appearance

Cost Reduction Cheaper fibers enable manufacturer to sella less-expensive product

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