FAQAnswers to frequently asked questions about cotton and sustainability.
Cotton is a familiar textile, but how well do you know the facts about this versatile crop? Get the answers to common questions about cotton.
We provide extensive citations for these facts, and all content on this page and all pages on CottonToday have been reviewed for accuracy by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Is cotton completely biodegradable? How long does it take for it to completely biodegrade?
Which is more energy efficient, growing or recycling cotton?
100% of cotton textiles can be recycled into textiles or other materials.2 How energy efficient this process is depends on the quality of sorting, the type of material, the equipment used and the resulting product. Growing and recycling cotton are both important processes, and researchers are constantly looking for ways to improve how they are managed. Read more here.
What happens to the rest of the cotton plant once cotton is harvested?
Cottonseed oil is used in a wide variety of products from salad dressing to makeup to toothpaste, and cottonseed can feed dairy cattle.3 Cotton linters, the tiny fuzz left on cottonseed hulls, are a renewable form of cellulose. Linters are commonly used to make products like paper, but it can also be found in food products such as ice cream and beer. Read more here.
What do cotton growers do to maintain biodiversity and wildlife habitats?
What is the difference between conventional and organic cotton?
The distinction between organic and conventional cotton can often be misunderstood or misconstrued in sustainability conversations. In reality, growing practices are remarkably similar. The big differences come down to where the seeds come from, and which chemicals are used to grow and protect the crops. When they are produced responsibly, both organic and conventional cotton can be grown with lower environmental impacts. But neither is inherently more sustainable than the other as growing conditions and on farm practices are the key drivers of sustainably. Read more here.
Does cotton use a lot of pesticides?
Does cotton need a lot of fertilizer?
Does cotton use a lot of water?
Does cotton use a lot of land?
What are the facts about cotton in tampons?
Over the past year, there has been misinformation linking cotton to a lack of availability and increased cost to the consumer of period products, including tampons.
In fact, while there has been growth in cotton usage in tampons over the years, many of the main components of these period products are synthetic or manmade and do not contain cotton.
While cotton can be used in these three tampon components, most of the materials used in tampons are synthetic or man-made because those options come at a lower cost to manufacturers.1
Recent reports put cotton’s market share in the nonwovens category at just 1.7 percent,2 a small portion, considering two-thirds of consumers assume cotton is the main material used in their period products due to the absorbency and appearance.3
While manufacturers may have encountered challenges with their supply chains, there is not a lack of physical supply of cotton in the market at the world-level according to 2021/2022 USDA statistics. Volatile buying patterns and aggravated localized shortages have contributed to cotton price volatility across a wide range of products, during and post COVID, according to Cotton Incorporated’s senior economist, Jon Devine. However, Devine indicates that the market has evolved and there has been a major shift since the spring of 2022.
“The U.S. and the world have entered into a new economic phase, with inflation and rising interest rates suggesting slower rates of growth,” states Devine. “Concerns about a slowing consumer environment have already enabled price decreases in several commodity markets, including the one for cotton fiber.”
To learn more about the facts about cotton in tampons, please visit the CottonWorks™ website.
Click here to learn more about the cotton market and price outlook.
- RPK Consulting Quarterly Estimates
- The Future of Global Nonwovens to 2027, Smithers
- Cotton Incorporated’s Global Hygiene Study, 2020
Who is behind this website?
- Nelson, R.G., C.M. Hellwinckel, C.C. Brandt and T.O. West, D.G. De La Torre Ugarte, and G. Marland. 2009. Energy Use and Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Cropland Production in the United States, 1990–2004. J. Environ. Qual. 38:418–425. (Nelson et al., 2009)
- Accelerating Circularity (2021). Modeling and Linking Report. https://www.acceleratingcircularity.org/s/ModelingAndLinkingReport.pdf
- United States Department of Agriculture (2020). FoodData Central Database. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/index.html.A Arieli (1998). Whole cottonseed in dairy cattle feeding: a review. Animal Feed Science and Technology, Volume 72, Issues 1–2,Pages 97-110, ISSN 0377-8401, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0377-8401(97)00169-7.
- Williams, M.R. (2012). Cotton insect losses 2011. Presented at the 2012 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, Orlando, Florida, January 3-6, 2012. Pp. 1013-1037.
- https://cottontoday.cottoninc.com/cottonproduction/land/#:~: text=Cotton’s%20global%20land%20use%20has,as%20planted%20acres%20have%20declined.