How Sustainable Is Econyl?

How Sustainable Is Econyl?

Fishing nets have become a huge problem for marine life. Whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and other marine life are being trapped by the nets left behind by fishermen.

But with some clever innovations and technology, fashion could be the answer to cleaning up some of these nets and saving the lives of our beautiful marine life.

A number of brands are now using fishing nets and reclaimed marine debris to make a recycled nylon fabric, ECONYL, that is not only turned into quality garments, but helps reduce pressure on the oceans and their inhabitants.

Econyl is a regenerated nylon fabric first produced by Italian textile manufacturer Aquafil in 2011.

It's an innovative material that encourages sustainability in the global textile and apparel industry.

Econyl is an environmentally friendly recycled nylon 6 fiber manufactured exclusively from regenerated raw materials such as fabric scraps, carpet flooring, fishing nets, industrial plastic, ocean, and landfill waste.

Traditionally, nylon is a synthetic textile made of petroleum-based plastic polymers.

It's a very versatile material used in many different applications today, including clothing fabrics in the fashion industry.

Nylon, also called polyamide, is one of the most popular and widely used synthetic fabrics next to polyester. It's very cheap to produce compared to natural fibers but isn't the most environmentally friendly.

Global nylon production keeps increasing and has a catastrophic impact on people, animals, and the planet.

Many textiles used in the fashion industry aren't eco-friendly or sustainable.

The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters globally, mostly due to the lack of innovation to make fabrics more environmentally friendly.

Only a very small fraction of the resources used by the global textile and apparel industry are renewable.

And only very few fashion brands and designers use recycled fabrics made of regenerated fibers.

Fortunately, nylon is almost infinitely recyclable. It can be recycled, recreated, remolded, and become brand new again to create new products without having to use new resources.

What Is Econyl?

ECONYL, created by Italian firm Aquafil, uses synthetic waste such as industrial plastic, waste fabric, and fishing nets from oceans, then recycles and regenerates them into a new nylon yarn that is exactly the same quality as virgin nylon.

This regeneration system focuses on 6 steps that form a closed loop which uses less water and creates less waste than traditional nylon production methods.

Waste is collected, then cleaned and shredded, depolymerised to extract nylon, polymerised, transformed into yarn, and then re-commercialised into textile products.

Econyl fabric is a recycled nylon 6 fabric made of post-industrial plastic waste, old rugs, carpets, textile waste, used garments, fishing nets, and reclaimed marine debris.

It's an innovative and technologically advanced material made with a special closed-loop production process.

Econyl regenerated nylon fiber is high-quality, as strong, durable, and flexible as the raw material from oil.

Since its discovery in the 1930s, nylon has conquered the whole world and is found in a multitude of applications today.

It's used especially for tights and stockings but also commonly found in tents, ropes, tires, seat belts, sleeping bags, curtains, tennis rackets, and more.

Econyl fabric by Aquafil is used in the textile and apparel industry by many fashion brands and designers.

Regenerated nylon fibers are woven into fabrics to create fleece, circular knits, coats, sweaters, sportswear, swimwear, hosiery, shoes, loungewear, underwear, and accessories.

Even though it can be used alone, Econyl is often blended with other natural or synthetic fibers such as spandex or elastane to make it more elastic.

How can it help?

ECONYL is a way to recycle and replace virgin nylon in our everyday products and clothes.

Traditional production methods for nylon are not eco-friendly, they require huge amounts of water and produce a hefty amount of nitrous oxide, which is 10 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

What’s more, nylon is not biodegradable, and it is estimated that up to 40% of man made plastic waste in the oceans is nylon.

The downside

While ECONYL is a fantastic initiative that is helping to clean up our waterways and repurpose trash that would otherwise end up in landfill, sticking around in the environment for hundreds of years before breaking down, there is still one itty bitty issue: microfibres.

These tiny plastic particles are released from synthetic fibres, including ECONYL, so you still need to be aware of how to minimise them when using the recycled plastic fabric.

From using a wash bag or filter in your washing machine, to only buying ECONYL goods that don’t require regular washing like shoes and swimwear, there are numerous steps you can take to make the most of your ECONYL goods.

FAQs

Is ECONYL really sustainable?

ECONYL® is a regenerated nylon produced by Aquafil. ... All of these waste products are collected, cleaned, shredded, and then depolymerised to extract nylon which is then polymerised and turned into nylon yarn in the same way that virgin nylon yarn is made - but without crude oil.

How is ECONYL made?

Econyl is a form of nylon that is made entirely from waste products.

It is made from a range of post-consumer waste including abandoned fishing nets, carpets, and rigid textiles and aims to be a green alternative to the original product which is made from a derivative of oil.

Is recycled nylon sustainable?

Recycled Nylon has the same benefits as recycled polyester: It diverts waste from landfills and its production uses much fewer resources than virgin nylon (including water, energy and fossil fuel).

Recycling nylon is still more expensive than new nylon, but it has many environmental advantages.

Is Econyl expensive?

According to Mr. Bonazzi, driving costs of Econyl down is essential to Aquafil's business model.

Therefore, it's reasonable to expect that Econyl is priced similarly to nylon. Even if this sustainable fabric is more expensive than nylon at present, costs will normalize as Econyl becomes more popular.

What is recycled cotton fabric?

We can define recycled cotton as the transformation of cotton fabric into cotton fibers that can be reused in new textile products and fashion articles.

This cotton is also known as reclaimed or regenerated cotton.

Is organic cotton sustainable?

Organic cotton is a more positive and sustainable alternative. It is made from non-genetically modified plants that are grown without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides.

This makes it better for the environment, the climate and the

health of the people involved.

How Sustainable Is Econyl Fabric?

As we are forced to find more suitable and sustainable alternatives to popular synthetic fabrics, Italian textile company Aquafil may just have the answer with their recycled and regenerated nylon product “Econyl”.

It has been used by Adidas for swimwear and Stella McCartney for outerwear, but what actually is it? How is it made? And, most importantly, how sustainable is it?

Econyl, also referred to as recycled or waste nylon, is made from plastic pollutants like abandoned fishing nets and scraps of carpets or garments recovered from the ocean and waterways.

The durability of nylon means it is suitable for purposes like fishing nets, but these often are improperly discarded and float indefinitely in the ocean, harming aquatic life. 

The rescued waste materials are broken down from polymers into monomers and then “re-polymerised” just like nylon.

As the breakdown process only requires high temperatures and steam (no chemicals!), it is already much more sustainable.

The fibres are stretched to match nylon’s elasticity, then they are spun and ready to be manufactured into consumer products.

Since Econyl once started out as nylon, it shares a few similar attributes, bar moisture deflection and long-term durability. 

So, everything looks great right? One of the problems with nylon is that it isn’t biodegradable, but if we can repurpose it at the end of its life cycle, we may be heading to a more sustainable future.

However, Econyl doesn’t decrease the amount of nylon produced each year, it only provides a solution to its unfriendly disposal.

It prevents further pollution and the risk of microplastic contaminating our waterways. It must be noted too that Econyl itself also isn’t biodegradable.

It could take as long as 1000 years or more for synthetic fabrics to break down. Their website claims Econyl provides a waste solution, but this is only short-term, ignoring the inevitable.

It is claimed that for every 10,000 tonnes of Econyl produced, 70,000 barrels of crude oil are saved and overall, the impact of global warming is reduced by up to 90% compared with production of materials from oil. The stats are impressive.

By producing Econyl, Aquafil aims to reduce dependency on oil, carbon dioxide emissions, water, and energy consumption.

Econyl is an environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber as it's based on nylon waste materials that are melted down, regenerated, and restored into polymers without the use of chemicals.

The innovative mechanical process reduces water, energy usage, and carbon emissions compared to conventional nylon production from oil.

For every 10,000 tons Econyl recycled nylon produced, 70,000 barrels of crude oil and 65,100 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions are saved compared to a regular nylon yarn made from virgin polymer.

Econyl regenerated nylon reduces the global warming impact of nylon by up to 90% compared to the material from oil.

Econyl synthetic nylon 6 fibers are manufactured in ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, ISO 50001, and SA 8000 certified facilities.

"For more than 50 years Aquafil has been a key player in the production of synthetic fibers, in particular polyamide 6.

The continuous search for excellence and innovation, combined with the commitment to sustainability, make it a point of reference for the entire sector."

70% of all electricity and thermal energy used by Aquafil comes from renewable sources. In 2019, the group emitted 58% fewer greenhouse gases annually than in 2016.

Despite these advantages, Econyl is still a synthetic petroleum-based polymer. It's recyclable but not biodegradable or compostable.

Econyl fabrics take hundreds of years to decompose. As nylon breaks down, it releases toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases into the environment.

Econyl fabrics also release plastic microfibers into the environment that pollute entire food chains, kill land and marine wildlife, and endanger human health.

At present, the cost of the process – recovering the plastic, the scientific manufacture and production – is relatively high but hopefully will converge with more popular fabrics as sustainability is normalised in the near future. 

How To Care For Econyl Fabrics

Taking good care of your clothes is one of the best ways to live more sustainably.

It extends the life of your clothing and the time you can wear them. It also limits pressure on natural resources, contributes to less waste, pollution, and emissions.

Washing

To save water, energy, and the quality of your garment, it's best to wash clothes made of Econyl in cold temperatures.

You can place them in the washing machine but with a temperature lower than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Don't use a strong detergent and make sure the washing speed doesn't exceed 600 revolutions per minute.

It's best to wash Econyl garments in a wash bag or filter to limit the number of plastic microfibers that leak into the sewage system.

Drying

The more sustainable way of drying your clothes is to hang them to dry. Place them on a line in fresh air rather than using a dryer.

It preserves the quality of your garments and saves an enormous amount of energy, carbon emissions, and money.

Ironing

It's not necessary to iron your clothes made of Econyl.

The material is very flexible and often blended with elastane or spandex to make it even more elastic.

If you decide to iron your clothing, select the lowest temperature possible to prevent any damage.

Conclusion

It can safely be said that Econyl is sustainable for now. It doesn’t deplete fossil fuels, pollute the air or introduce any new material into circulation.

It gives a new life to garments that would otherwise be left to clog up the planet, however it doesn’t solve the fundamental plastic problem and Econyl items risk having a similar fate to its synthetic relatives.

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