Revealing the Truth: Is Nylon Truly Sustainable?
In our pursuit of sustainability, we often find ourselves reevaluating the materials we use, especially in industries that heavily rely on synthetic fabrics. Swimwear is predominantly crafted from plastic-derived fabrics like nylon, polyester, and elastane. As concerns grow regarding the environmental impact of these materials, a potential solution has emerged in the form of ECONYL®, a regenerated nylon fabric made from recycled plastic waste. But is ECONYL® too good to be true? Can it truly address the sustainability challenges posed by traditional nylon? In this blog post, we embark on a journey to reveal the truth about nylon's sustainability and explore ECONYL® as an alternative. We'll delve into the characteristics of ECONYL®, assess its environmental impact, and dive into the remarkable recyclability of nylon. Together, we will uncover the sustainable choices we can make today, as we strive towards a more circular and responsible future for swimwear and beyond.
The Sustainability Challenges of Traditional Nylon
Traditional nylon poses several sustainability challenges that cannot be ignored. Firstly, its production heavily relies on non-renewable fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbating climate change. Additionally, the extraction and processing of crude oil for nylon production result in environmental degradation and air pollution. The non-biodegradable nature of nylon leads to persistent plastic waste, polluting ecosystems and harming marine life. Furthermore, the dyeing and finishing processes of nylon involve the use of hazardous chemicals, posing risks to both human health and the environment. Lastly, the limited recycling infrastructure for nylon exacerbates its negative environmental impact, as a significant amount of nylon ends up in landfills or incinerators instead of being reused or repurposed. These challenges highlight the urgent need for more sustainable alternatives and responsible practices within the fashion industry.
Finding an alternative
When creating SunDaze, we knew that we needed to look for an alternative. That's when we learned more about recycled nylon and more specifically, ECONYL®. It's an innovative and technologically advanced material made with a special closed-loop production process. The fiber is of high-quality, as strong, durable, and flexible as the raw material from oil.
Aquafil, a pioneering company at the forefront of sustainable innovation, is credited with the creation of Econyl. Through extensive research and development, Aquafil has revolutionized the concept of nylon production by transforming discarded materials into a regenerated yarn with exceptional sustainability credentials. Aquafil's dedication to environmental responsibility led them to develop a proprietary process that converts nylon waste, including fishing nets, industrial plastics, and post-consumer products, into a high-quality nylon yarn known as Econyl. This groundbreaking achievement has significantly reduced the reliance on virgin resources and diverted substantial amounts of plastic waste from landfills and oceans. Aquafil's visionary approach has not only sparked a paradigm shift in the fashion industry but has also set an example for other companies to follow, demonstrating that sustainability and innovation can go hand in hand. Their commitment to creating positive change through the development of Econyl showcases the transformative power of research and its capacity to shape a more sustainable future.
How ECONYL® is made
ECONYL® is made through a multi-step process that transforms nylon waste into a regenerated yarn. The production of ECONYL® begins with the collection of discarded nylon materials, including fishing nets, fabric scraps, industrial plastic waste, and post-consumer products. These materials undergo a meticulous sorting and cleaning process to remove impurities and contaminants. Next, the collected nylon waste is subjected to a depolymerization process. During depolymerization, the nylon waste is broken down into its fundamental molecular components. This process helps remove any colorants or additives present in the waste material, resulting in a pure form of nylon. The depolymerized nylon is then transformed through a polymerization process, where it is rebuilt into a new, high-quality nylon yarn. This regenerated nylon yarn, known as ECONYL®, possesses the same performance characteristics and quality as traditional nylon but with significantly reduced environmental impact. An example of a resulting fabric used for swimwear is Carvico Vita.
By utilizing waste materials, ECONYL® not only reduces the demand for virgin resources but also helps mitigate plastic pollution by giving new life to discarded materials. The innovative production process behind ECONYL® exemplifies the transformative power of sustainable manufacturing practices and offers a compelling solution towards a more circular and responsible textile industry.
Too good to be true?
You may wonder, is it too good to be true? Perhaps. As with every fabric, ECONYL® has pros and cons.
While ECONYL is a fantastic initiative that reduces the global warming impact of nylon by up to 90% compared to the material from oil, it still uses microfibers. These tiny plastic particles are released from synthetic fibres, including ECONYL®.
Every time you wash a synthetic fabric, millions of microfibers are released into the water. Microfibers are too small to be filtered out by waste treatment plants, which means that they end up back in our waterways and oceans.
Luckily, there are many things we can do to minimise this process. One of the main things when relating it to our surf swimwear, is the washing process. This is key in prolonging the life and minimising the release of microfibers. When hand washing cold, up to 50% less fibers are released.
If you need to machine wash your garment, you can also install a washing machine filter and wash on a cold cycle. A washing machine filter works by both reducing shedding and capturing up to 80% of the released microfibers in its mesh.
Nylon is almost infinitely recyclable
What happens when your garment reaches the end of its life? It can be recycled again! Aquafil not only recycles nylon, it also recaptures discarded ECONYL® fabric products for another round of recycling. In this way, ECONYL® forms part of an endless recycling process which drastically reduces fabric waste. A great step forward towards a more circular future, which we want to be a part of.
Sustainable choices towards a more circular future
Finally, in addition to using ECONYL® fabric, we also take other steps towards a more sustainable and circular future. For example, we strive not to use any plastic, we use wash bags instead of packaging, our thank you card doubles as wall art and we use Kraft hygiene liners instead of plastic alternatives. We also ship all of your orders carbon neutral. Read more about what makes our products sustainable in this blog post.
We are always looking for new ways to improve our brand by making more conscious choices and innovate where we can. Transparency is key for us. We are a small business, so unfortunately our resources can be limited at times. But as we grow, our carbon footprint won't grow with us.