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Shandong Silver Hawk Chemical Fiber Co., Ltd., Viscose Plant, China

Viscose plant causes heavy air pollution; suspected of discharging untreated wastewater into nearby river. Local residents complain but continue to suffer from pollution for years.


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:Shandong Silver Hawk Chemical Fiber Co., Ltd., Viscose Plant, China
State or province:Shandong Province
Location of conflict:Gaomi City
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Manufacturing activities
Chemical industries
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Shandong Silver Hawk Chemical Fiber Co., Ltd., produces viscose staple fibres (VSF) at a capacity of 130,000 tonnes per year [3].

Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:unknown
Start of the conflict:01/05/2010
Company names or state enterprises:Shandong Silver Hawk Chemical Fiber Co., Ltd., from China - plant owner
Relevant government actors:Weifang Municipal Government
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsExposure to high levels of hydrogen sulphide and carbon disulfides (air), and zinc (water bodies)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:unknown
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The local residents have been suffering from pollution for years and at this moment there are no indication that Silver Hawk is attempting to end their polluting activities.
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.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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

[3] Shandong Silver Hawk Chemical Fibre Co., Ltd. Website
[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 update18/12/2017
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