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Jiujiang Jinyuan Chemical Fiber Co. Ltd. Viscose Plant, China

Toxic chemicals and untreated industrial waste leads to water pollution and factory worker death at viscose plant in China.


Background: Viscose (or rayon)  has often been marketed as a more ecologically sustainable alternative to polyester because unlike polyester which is made from petrochemicals, viscose is made from cellulose. It is also praised by some fashion brands because it requires less water to produce compared with cotton. Viscose is found in a huge variety of clothes and is used by almost every major fashion brand to some extent. Although not inherently unsustainable, it is the production process of viscose that presents a very problematic story. Basically, wood pulp is extracted from wood, then turned into viscose staple fibre (VSF) and filament yarn through a highly chemical process using carbon disulphide. Viscose production faces a three pronged issue: the risk of deforestation of ancient forests, occupational hazards of factory workers who are exposed to highly dangerous toxins that have been linked to neurological damage, and heavy contamination that results from poor waste management of viscose factories, not only polluting nearby waters and air, but causing widespread illnesses to villagers in the vicinity of factories. [1][2]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Jiujiang Jinyuan Chemical Fiber Co. Ltd. Viscose Plant, China
State or province:Jiangxi Province
Location of conflict:Gutang Town
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Manufacturing activities
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Industrial waste
Viscose (rayon)
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:01/04/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Jiujiang Jinyuan Chemical Fiber Co., Ltd. from China - Owner of plant
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Groundwater pollution or depletion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion
Other Environmental impactshydrogen sulphide pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsexposure to hydrogen sulphide
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The factory has been forced to shut down several times and has been fined, yet they seem to continue their polluting and toxic activities as before.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] Blanc, P.D. 2016, Fake silk: the lethal history of viscose rayon, Yale University Press, Cumberland.

[1] Changing Markets Foundation 2017, Dirty Fashion: How pollution in the global textiles supply chain is making viscose toxic
[click to view]

[3] Consumer Daily, "Villagers of Gutang Village, Lushan District, Jiujiang City Complain about Underlying Sewage Discharge by Jiujiang Jinyuan Chemical Fibre and Jiangxi Datang Chemical to Poyang River", 13 January 2015
[click to view]

[4] Huanqiu, "Enterprises Directly Discharge Sewage into Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, Treatment Plant Completion Date Remains Unknown", 9 April 2011
[click to view]

Other comments:This sheet mostly draws from the report by Changing Markets Foundation 2017, "Dirty Fashion: How pollution in the global textiles supply chain is making viscose toxic"
Meta information
Contributor:Mariko Takedomi Karlsson, research intern @ EnvJustice, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3185
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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