PT Indo Bharat Rayon Viscose Plant, Indonesia

The largest viscose plant in Indonesia may pose serious health risks for plant workers and local residents through toxic processes, air pollution, water pollution, and suspected illegal dumping of toxic waste.


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][3].

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Basic Data
NamePT Indo Bharat Rayon Viscose Plant, Indonesia
ProvinceWest Java
SiteCilangkap, Babakancikao, Purwakarta Regency
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Chemical industries
Manufacturing activities
Specific Commoditiesviscose staple fibre, anhydrous sodium sulphate, sulphuric acid.
Industrial waste
Manufactured Products
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIndo Bharat Rayon began operations in Indonesia in 1974, and the Purwakarta plant opened in 1982. The IBR plant was expanded in 2015 to increase plant capacity for viscose staple fibre (VSF) and sulphuric acid. The expansion cost roughly USD $60 million.
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date02/01/1999
Company Names or State EnterprisesAditya Birla Group from India
Indo Bharat Rayon from India
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersWALHI,

Wahana Pemerhati Lingkungan Indonesia (WAPLI)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
IBR was found guilty of charges in June 2016 and the company was fined approximately €673,000 with the CEO potentially facing prison time [1]. Despite this legal action, WAPLI argue that IBR have not implemented changes to rectify this situation.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The IBR plant is still in operation and there have been no observations or proof of improvements in their waste management or toxic production processes.
Sources and Materials

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


[2] World Socialist Website 1999, Workers Struggles: Asia, "Hundreds attack two factories for environmental pollution", 9 January 1999.
[click to view]

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

Other Documents

Sulphur contamination in village nearby IBR plant photo credit: Muhammad Fajar Fauzan for Changing Markets
[click to view]

Villager hanging washed viscose photo credit: Muhammad Fajar Fauzan for Changing Markets
[click to view]

Other CommentsThis 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
ContributorMariko Takedomi Karlsson, research intern @ EnvJustice, [email protected]
Last update11/12/2017