ECONYL sustainable nylon alternative set to replace traditional nylon in a wide variety of industries and products.
Nylon is the stretchy material found in underwear, hosiery, activewear, swimwear, and even umbrellas. It was the first fabric to be made in a laboratory. Nylon is made out of crude oil and is very energy-intensive to produce. Producing nylon creates nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Large amounts of water are needed to cool the fibres along with lubricants, which can become a source of contamination. Moreover, nylon is not biodegradable. If it makes its way into the oceans, it will degrade to thin fibres and small particles that wildlife can digest.
Many designers and fashion brands want to use a sustainable nylon alternative in their garments, but it is difficult to find them. One new sustainable nylon alternative is called ECONYL, a trademark of the Italian plastics company Aquafil. Sustainable nylon alternative ECONYL is made up of nylon waste, including fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring, and industrial plastic. The nylon waste is recovered and converted into new yarn. This regenerated nylon can be recycled, recreated, and remoulded repeatedly. ECONYL is chemically identical to nylon 6, which means it has the same characteristics as traditional nylon and can be used in the same ways.
The ECONYL Regenerative System happens in four steps.
- They rescue waste like fishing nets, fabric scraps, and industrial plastic from all over the world. The waste is sorted and cleaned to recover all of the nylon possible.
- Through radical regeneration and purification, the recovered nylon is recycled back to its original purity, allowing the quality of ECONYL to reflect that of fossil-based nylon.
- The recycled nylon is processed into new yarns and polymers for fashion and industrial brands.
- These brands can use ECONYL to create new products. Once the products containing ECONYL are no longer useful to customers, they can return and be regenerated again.
According to the ECONYL website, for every 10,000 tons of ECONYL raw material produced, they can save 70,000 barrels of cruise oils and over 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Switching to sustainable nylon alternative ECONYL also reduces the global warming impact of nylon by up to 90% compared with the material from oil.
Using abandoned fishing nets to make ECONYL helps to clean up the oceans and helps reduce the risk of marine animals getting entangled by abandoned nets. ECNOYL has teamed up with many take-back organizations to collect the materials used in creating their regenerative nylon. They have two carpet facilities in the US where they collect nylon 6. They also work with the Healthy Seas Foundation to collect recovered fishing nets.
ECONYL has teamed up with over 100 brands (many are swimwear and activewear brands) to include this sustainable nylon alternative in their products. Gucci, for example, launched its own recycling program to convert textile scraps into new ECONYL yarn. Gucci has also used ECONYL to create sustainable nylon alternative handbags. In 2023, Stella McCartney launched its first-ever close-the-loop garment, a parka made from ECONYL that is designed to be returned and regenerated into new yarn at its end-of-life. Adidas has been known to incorporate ECONYL into some of their swimwear designs.
We are also seeing ECONYL used in interior brands like Pottery Barn to make rugs and car brands like BMW and Mercedez-Benz to produce their car floor mats. BMW also uses ECONYL in various interior trims, such as seat covers, door panels, and dashboard components.
As more brands begin to use ECONYL in their designs, we may eventually see a phase-out of traditional, fossil-fuel nylon. This sustainable switch will help the design and fashion industries become greener, our oceans cleaner, and help to create bigger importance on recycling and regenerating used materials.