What are the environmental impacts of soy fabric?
Soy fibers have certain pros and cons associated with it and are difficult to categorize them as entirely low impact fibers. Starting off with their cultivation, many farmers utilise genetically modified soy which require a large amount of water and pesticides although there are alternative methods to grow organic soy. Another agricultural issue with soy cultivation is that large hectares of rainforest land are cleared for this crop which results in loss of habitat for various wildlife animals, displacement of communities from their land and most important environmental and climate change. Thus, it is difficult to determine that the soy clothing one procures adopts organic methods of cultivation or not and brings uncertainty in terms of its sustainability.
However, when compared with synthetic fabric, soy definitely has an upper hand since it is easy to decompose making it biodegradable. Moreover, soy fibers utilise soybean waste as their raw material and are the by-product of extracting soy oil and soy foods like tofu and so reduces the waste generation of agro-based industries. Soy fibers are basically zero-waste material, and soy fibers that do not qualify to be made into the fabric are fed to cattle.
To consider soy fiber as sustainable or environmentally friendly is still a big question because the production process of the fiber releases certain toxic chemical such as the use of formaldehyde is carcinogenic and can prove to be fatal and the workers if exposed to even low-level of formaldehyde can cause skin irritation and respiratory disorder. Although research is going on to identify its alternative and one of its substitutes is polycarboxylic acid.
But many manufacturing units cite that the production process is a closed loop system as the chemicals are retrieved and reused.