What is Econyl and how can it contribute to Australian fashion?


Did you know that 50 per cent of clothing buyers prefer to purchase eco-friendly garments over less environmentally conscious ones? This is the case, according to a recent study from AYTM. Attitudes towards sustainability have changed drastically over the last 10 to 15 years, and as consumers look to make better decisions, fashion designers need to keep up. This is not to say there is a lack of eco-friendly designers - far from it. 

Many labels are taking pro-environmental stances in sourcing fabrics and materials, and are doing well as a result. Econyl is a sustainable generation process developed by Italian company Aquafil which produces 100 per cent recycled textile yarn (Nylon 6) that performs like virgin products. What exactly is nylon 6, how does the Econyl process work, and how can these contribute to sustainable fashion?


Consumer attitudes towards fashion have changed drastically in the last decade. Clothing buyers would largely prefer to buy eco-friendly products thannot, so designers should take this on board. The Textile Hub is now supplying 100 per cent recycled Nylon 6 to designers - how could it work for you?


What is Nylon 6?


Nylon 6 is a synthetic polymer produced in 1938, a response to the first example of nylon (nylon 6,6) which arrived three years earlier. The first consumer product to feature the new material was the nylon-bristled toothbrush, yet its initial appearance in the world of fashion followed closely behind. These were women's stockings (still occasionally referred to as "nylons") which hit the commercial market in 1940. Applying this new synthetic fibre to women's hosiery was a huge innovation in fashion, and represented a whole new world of possibilities for man-made textiles. Being strong, beautiful and low cost, nylon stockings were a huge hit - perhaps aided somewhat by high demand and low supply during World War II. Nylon 6 would go on to be used in high-fashion apparel, sports and swimwear, as well as a truly staggering number of non-textile applications


How does the Econyl recycling process work?


Unfortunately, traditional production methods for nylon were not kind to the environment. Manufacturing required huge amounts of water, produced a hefty amount of nitrous oxide (310 times more potent than carbon dioxide) and also relied on massive energy expenditure.

To make matters worse, this material is not biodegradable, and much of it ends up in the ocean. While the exact figures for nylon waste in the ocean are often contended, it's thought to make up 30 to 40 per cent of man-made plastic waste.

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The good news is, companies like Aquafil are committed to recycling nylon waste, having developed the Econyl process specifically for this purpose. Econyl starts with collection of waste materials.

Post-consumer waste includes spent fishing nets and salvageable parts of used carpets. Econyl also collects pre-consumer waste in the form of industrial plastics, yarn discards and fabric scraps (including take back programs with a number of global brands).

These reclaimed materials go through a groundbreaking purification process, before undergoing a course of polymerisation, which restores the properties inherent in nylon produced from raw fossil materials. After being repurposed into textile yarns, the essentially brand new nylon 6 enters the commercial space to be used by eco-friendly designers across the world.


What are the benefits of using Nylon 6?


Nylon has a host of benefits to being used in fashion applications, from clothes and accessories, to hosiery and lingerie. While originally developed as an alternative to silk, nylon is actually far more durable. It's resistant to abrasion and is far stronger than both cotton and wool. Nylon is also more resistant to water than many natural materials - rather than absorbing it, nylon will push moisture to the surface where it evaporates rather than becoming mildew.

In addition to durability and water resistance, nylons high flexibility make in an optimal material for swimwear and activewear. As an added bonus, nylon is very easy to dye, making it even more versatile as an option for clothing design. Are you ready to make the switch to more eco friendly materials? To find out how The Textile Hub can help you source sustainable materials, contact the team today.

Nick Smith