Turning Waste Into Endless Possibilities

Our society’s appetite for creating and buying new products may seem endless, but we know that the planet’s resources are not. 

In the quest to continue manufacturing products while maintaining a healthy environment, companies have been challenged to reinvent themselves by incorporating sustainable or recyclable raw materials into their production lines.

In the textile industry, one company that strives for a greener path every day is Aquafil Group

For over 50 years the global leader in the synthetic fibres industry, Aquafil, has been a major player in the production of Polyamide 6 (Nylon 6) worldwide.

Filaments textile production, floorings in particular, have been Aquafil’s core business since the company was founded. Today the Group is the leading manufacturer in Europe.

ECONYL® brand 

In recent years, Aquafil Group has increased the production of secondary raw materials, to offer high-quality products while promoting environmental protection and circular economy.

All regenerated yarns by Aquafil are grouped under the ECONYL® brand. These yarns offer the same quality and performance as normal Nylon 6 but with incredible environmental benefits due to the fact that:

  1. They come from regenerated waste
  2. They are 100% infinitely recyclable

ECONYL® regenerated nylon is a sustainable solution for all brands that want to produce in a more responsible way, in line with the growing need to protect our planet.

As well as being a solution to waste, ECONYL® regenerated nylon is also better when it comes to climate change. It reduces the global warming impact of nylon by up to 90% compared with the material from oil. It’s all part of the ECONYL® brand vision to make the world a better place by pioneering closed loop regeneration processes and delivering sustainable products. 

The sources of waste used for producing ECONYL® regenerated nylon 

Some see trash, others see treasure” says Giulio Bonazzi, President and Chairman of Aquafil. To produce ECONYL® regenerated nylon, Aquafil rescues various waste materials, such as: 

●  Old carpets destined for landfills, collected through the Group’s carpet recycling facilities located in the USA 
●  Fishing nets from aquaculture and fish industry and ghost nets 
●  Pre-consumer waste coming from industrial processes such as plastic components, 
industrial waste and fabric scraps 
●  Special take back projects in collaboration with different brands such as Napapijri, Speedo and Gucci.

From the source to the final consumer through valuable partnerships: Collaboration with Healthy Seas and Hyundai

Aquafil strives to come full circle through empathy and collaboration, inside and outside, from the source of the material to the final product. This is why the Group collaborates with various companies and organisations for the collection and recovery of waste. One of them is Healthy Seas Foundation. 

Hyundai and Healthy Seas work together with volunteer divers from ‘Ghost Diving’ Organisation to recover abandoned fishing nets from reefs and shipwrecks. These ‘Ghost Nets’ would continue to kill marine wildlife underwater for decades if it wasn’t for their intervention. — Click here to learn more about Healthy Seas and the inspiring work they do.

With the purpose of creating healthier seas and recycling marine litter into textile products, Aquafil has partnered with Healthy Seas to regenerate the nylon parts of the nets together with other nylon waste, into ECONYL® yarn. This high-quality raw material is then used to create new products, such as socks, swimwear, sportswear and even a number of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 floor mats.

Our visit to Aquafil with DAN Europe Sustainable Tour

What better way to close the loop for the Sustainable Tour than by visiting a company that helps close the loop to reduce plastic pollution?

“To close the loop with Nylon 6, we have had to work with many suppliers that we never imagined. Twenty years ago it would be unimaginable to think that the fishing industry would be one of our suppliers,” — says public relations and marketing Director Tina Mavrič, while showing us around their factory in Slovenia.

We first visited the Aquafil warehouse where plastic “waste” is stored, including recovered ghost-nets and discarded fishing nets. We then moved on to the manufacturing plant, where we witnessed how ECONYL® regenerated nylon is made.

The process behind this breakthrough material includes 4 steps:

1. Rescue 

The ECONYL® Regeneration System starts with rescuing waste otherwise polluting the Earth, like fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic all over the world. That waste is then sorted and cleaned to recover all of the nylon possible. 

2. Regenerate 

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 fossil-based nylon. 

3. Remake 

ECONYL® regenerated nylon is processed into yarns and polymers for the fashion and interior industries. 

4. Reimagine 

Fashion brands, interior designers and carpet producers use ECONYL® regenerated nylon to create brand new products. And that nylon has the potential to be recycled infinitely, without ever losing its quality. The goal is that once all products containing ECONYL® are no longer useful to customers, they can go back into step one of the Regeneration System.

An inspiration for Corporate Shared Value and Circular Economy

Just as Aquafil and Hyundai support initiatives to give ocean plastics a second life, we encourage all companies and organisations to reflect on this: 

How could you include these sustainable materials in your production lines or support initiatives to address the environmental and social issues we face today?

Want to know more about the ECONYL® brand? Discover this breakthrough material here.