In 2011 the italian company decided to launch an ambitious project to recover and regenerate discarded nylon without compromising the quality of the end-result.
They achieved their goal resulting in the material Econyl, a textile fiber for use in sportswear, swimsuits and even floor coverings.
Econyl is an alternative to nylon made from waste products and also known as recycled nylon. Normally, nylon has a significantly detrimental environmental impact, but the creators of Econyl seek to help reduce the effects of this fabric on the environment by using recycled base materials.
The recycling process they developed for the material is complex, but they state that they are able to maintain and even increase the quality of the nylon.
The used nylon mainly comes from the fishing industry where used fishing nets are gathered and brought to a plant in Ajdovščina, Slovenia, where they are reprocessed and sold for further usage.
Thereby Econyl recovers waste which would otherwise end up in landfills or oceans, causing serious damage to the ecosystem and environment. The material is said to be able to regenerate an infinite number of times to produce new polymers with technical characteristics and quality equivalent to products obtained from fossil materials.
Aquafil has not disclosed the exact processes it uses to make Econyl. But a general outline is stated by the company about the process.
The ECONYL® Regeneration System starts with rescuing waste, like fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic from landfills and oceans all over the world. That waste is then sorted and cleaned to recover all of the nylon possible.
Through a radical regeneration and purification process, the nylon waste is recycled right back to its original purity. That means ECONYL® regenerated nylon is exactly the same as virgin nylon.
Which brands use it?
Some of the many fashion brands that use Econyl are: ADIDAS , H&M , ALL SISTERS , ARKET, BURBERRY , H&M , LA PERLA , PRADA , STELLA MCCARTNEY , TOMMY HILFIGER , VOGUE and many many more.
As any nylon production Econyl is still produced with toxins and chemicals and it is not biodegradable. The environmental advantage is the recovery of plastic waste material that will not end up in landfills or harm ecosystems.
Econyl is certified by DNV GL, which is an Italian governmental body that handles product certifications. Aquafil’s carpet-grade Econyl has also received Cradle to Cradle Gold certification from Desso, which is a prominent carpet producer.
Additionally, Econyl has received Standard 100 certification from OEKO-TEX. Since Econyl is a synthetic fabric, it is not eligible for organic or non-GMO certification.
A factor to consider is that even though Aquafil collects and recycles plastic retrieved from the oceans, it is not nearly enough to save the oceans from the pollution due to the amount of plastic being poured into the sea every day.
One could also speculate that designers and companies would be inclined to make plastic alternatives now that it is recycled.
Although Econyl is made from nylon waste from landfills and oceans around the world, it is exactly the same as brand new nylon.
But the advantages of the recycling and recreation of the material is significant and can help “close the loop” meaning you can create new products and buy new products without having to use new resources.