Aquafil Enables Endless Design Possibilities with Infinitely Regenerated ECONYL® Nylon

A hardy, heavy-duty material praised for its powerhouse performance, nylon is produced in great abundance around the globe on an annual basis—approximately eight billion pounds per year to be precise—yet a detrimentally disproportionate amount is subsequently recycled. Moreover, virgin nylon is destructively generated from oil, which depletes natural resources. Seeking to significantly reduce the material’s adverse environmental effects, ECONYL® regenerated nylon is made entirely out of waste and can be infinitely recycled without ever losing quality. The smart and sustainable material solution asserts a level of quality that is consistent with traditional nylon with identical performance attributes, while also embodying an awareness of the need for mindful manufacturing processes that can accommodate an appetite for new products. Unleashing infinite possibilities for designers and architects, ECONYL® is made from 100 percent waste, is 100 percent recyclable, and offers a 90 percent reduction in global warming potential compared to nylon from fossil sources/virgin oil.

Photography Courtesy of Aquafil

How It’s Made

The material is made through a pioneering progression of steps referred to as the ECONYL® Regeneration System. First, the discarded waste that will ultimately make up the material are rescued from all over the world. This comprises 50-percent pre-consumer waste—including textile scraps and industrial plastic—and a minimum certified of 50-percent post-consumer waste that includes used carpet flooring and fishing nets. The carpet is sourced predominantly from Aquafil’s recycling facilities located in Phoenix, Arizona and Sacramento, California, while the majority of the fishing nets come from the aquaculture industry, with a portion comprising ghost nets that are resourcefully salvaged undersea by dexterous divers.

ECONYL® is made from post-consumer waste including fishing nets that are sourced by divers. Photography Courtesy of Aquafil

In order to make use of the maximum amount of nylon possible, the rescued waste is scrupulously sorted, methodically disassembled into components, and carefully cleaned. It is then recycled back to its original purity through a regeneration and purification process. This ultimately enables ECONYL® to offer the same compositional attributes and characteristics as virgin nylon. The material is then turned into carpet and textile yarn that allows designers to craft original products with a nylon that has the potential to be reused again and again without losing its quality. Once a carpet designed with ECONYL® is no longer useful, it can return to step one of the Regeneration System, Thus, the entire process progressively pushes for nylon products to be designed with recyclability in mind.

Industrial plastic waste used to make ECONYL®. Photography Courtesy of Aquafil

Environmental Benefits

Ingeniously employing a chemical recycling system rather than a mechanical one, ECONYL® production permits an inherent ability to be regenerated an infinite number of times without any effect on quality. The regenerated nylon performs exactly the same as brand new nylon with one driving difference: it can be recycled, recreated, and remolded on repeat. Thus, designers can continue to create without ever having to tap into new resources. For every 10,000 tons of ECONYL® raw material, a total of 70,000 barrels of crude oil are saved and approximately 65,100 tons of carbon equivalent emissions are avoided.

ECONYL® is made with 100 percent regenerated nylon. Photography Courtesy of Aquafil

Turning trash into high-quality, beautiful fibers, ECONYL® regenerated nylon is amongst the most sought-after yarn materials. Offering the ability to deliver designs that do not deplete fossil raw materials, Aquafil recognizes that though the need to create and appreciate new products is seemingly endless, the planet’s resources are not. “Sustainability is not a goal to be reached but a way of thinking, a way of being, a principle we must be guided by,” says Aquafil Chairman and CEO Giulio Bonazzi. An awareness of long-term environmental effects is required at every step of the design process. It is the responsibility of designers to control the selection of materials for the first phase of product development, which can ultimately determine up to 90 percent of a product’s environmental impact. In the hands of designers across interior design, fashion and automotive industries, ECONYL® nylon has been applied as a real solution, helping companies and entire industries evolve to become more committed to sustainability.  With endless possibilities and boundless benefits, the influence of ECONYL® on the future of design is evident.