Last update:

Shandong CHTC Helon Co., Ltd., Viscose Factory, China

Viscose plant is linked to heavy air pollution, groundwater pollution and (unproven) deaths of factory workers due to chemical poisoning.


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

Shandong Helon has annual production capacity of 70,000 tons of viscose staple fiber, 8,000 tons of viscose filament yarn, 90,000 tons of cotton pulp, 16,000 tons of cord fabrics and canvas series, and 4,500 tons of non-woven fabrics [1].

Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:27/11/2015
Company names or state enterprises:China Hi-Tech Group Corporation (CHTC) from China - Parent Company
SHANDONG HELON. CO., LTD. from China - Viscose producer
Relevant government actors:Weifang Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau
Weifang Environmental Science Research & Design Institute
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases, Deaths
Other Health impactspolluted water sources raise health concerns
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:unknown
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The company is in operation and local residents still suffer from heavy pollution in the air, and they cannot drink the well water. They are concerned about their health but many feel like there is nothing they can do to stop the company from polluting.
Sources and 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] "A Few Shandong Stocks Involved in Illegal Discharge and Bring Serious Air Pollution. Next Year Performance at Stake", 17 December 2014.
[click to view]

[4] "Hanting Residents Filed Complaints against Polluting Manufacturer", 1 December 2015.
[click to view]

Other documents

Taking water samples from a ditch near Shandong Helon viscose plant credit: Changing Markets
[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 update27/02/2018
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