THE fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. According to the Geneva Environment Network (GEN), fashion production makes up 10 percent of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. Around 85 percent of all textiles go to the dump each year (UNECE, 2018), and washing some types of clothes sends a significant amount of microplastics into the ocean.
Thus, industry players are searching for ways to green the fashion industry. Initiatives include reusing clothes to recycling fibers. Among the groundbreaking moves, however, are the creation of new fibers and alternative leather from waste materials. This addresses two major issues -- the reduction of solid waste and the production of sustainable and eco-friendly materials.
One material that I have already written about in this column is Piñatex. It is made from pineapple fibers and it’s produced right here in the Philippines. It is a replacement for animal leather. The use of Piñatex can avoid the clearing of forests for pasture and pollution from leather tanning.
Another product that I recently found on the internet is Econyl, a material similar to nylon that is made entirely from recycled waste products. Old fishing nets and carpets, among other abandoned textiles, are used to make this recycled fabric. It was conceived as a greener alternative to traditional nylon. It was created by the Aquafil Group, one of the leading players, both in Italy and globally, in the production of nylon.
Econyl is generally quite tough, like nylon, and can easily be woven into everything ranging from garments to industrial textiles. This fiber is recognized for being quite stretchy when it is woven, though it is not elastic in its raw form.
The production process for econyl starts with collecting waste like carpet flooring, fabric scraps, fishing nets, and industrial plastic from all over the world. After it is collected, the waste is cleaned and sorted to recover all nylon possible. Through a regeneration and purification process, nylon waste is then restored to its original form. Econyl regenerated nylon is then processed into yarns and polymers that are used to make clothing and home interiors.
Once products containing econyl are no longer useable to the consumer, they can go back to step one of the regeneration systems, producing new econyl products. With this process, econyl has the capability of being recycled infinitely.
Like nylon, econyl is stretchy and can be used in tights, swimsuits, and athletic wear, among other apparel. It is also used in high-end designer handbags, stylish clothes, hosiery and lingerie. It can also be used for industrial purposes like flooring, carpets, ropes and lines. Among the brands using econyl are Gucci, Prada, Adidas and Speedo. It is also used in the interiors of BMW and Mercedes Benz.