Technology has allowed for the innovation of mind boggling advances in the world of manufacturing textiles, especially from a sustainability point of view. If you’ve been following us for a while you know that our bags and outerwear at BEDI are made from a product called Econyl®, created from regenerated fishnets, recycled carpet fibers, and other old nylon bits and pieces to create the durable fabric that we have come to know and love. But have you ever wondered how we create a clean and polished material out of wet, fishy smelling pieces?
Today we are going to breakdown the process from start to finish, answering questions we all have about Econyl®.
Econyl® is a solution to the problem of nylon. Nylon was originally produced by the American Dupont association from fossil fuels in the ‘20s and blew up when the demand for production of *everything* increased during WW2. In the ‘70s the environmental movement brought to light the problem of synthetic fibers, and as time went experts have observed that if nylon isn’t recycled, it’s estimated to take between 30-40 years to degrade. This led global leaders of the synthetic fiber industry such as Aquafil, who we source our material from, to create Econyl®; a durable and sustainable material with the same nylon characteristics. Aquafil creates their Econyl® using the recycled nylon from two large polluters - carpets, and fishing nets.
In the US Alone, 4 billion pounds of carpets are discarded into landfills annually. Aquafil has two facilities that each process up to 36 million pounds of carpet annually, one in Phoenix, AZ and one in Woodland, CA. Once these fibers have been thoroughly cleaned and prepared, they are sent to a facility where they will be transformed into Econyl®.
Aquafil is one of the founding partners of The Healthy Seas Foundation. The organization’s goal is to remove all derelict fishnets responsible for needless deaths and the destruction of marine life. Volunteer “ghost” divers retrieve this marine waste coming from the fish farming and fishing industries in a gentle way that does not disrupt marine life. The fishnets are then cleaned, sorted, and sent to a regeneration plant.
These regeneration plants can be found all over the world. Econyl® was first produced in Italy, which is how it became a well known material often used in many big fashion houses coming out of Europe. Now, it is produced all over the world, however Aquafil’s plant is in Slovenia where there are strict regulations and labor laws protecting the environment and the workforce.
Econyl® - Step by Step
This is a chemical process essentially reversing and breaking down the molecular structure of the existing nylon polymer (a chemical compound made of small molecules to form a larger molecule).
The recycled nylon is rendered (aka melted) down into a “molten state”
The “molten state” is then extruded through a metal spinneret (think of lava being extruded from a volcano). Once cooled down a bit, this process leaves the solution in a shape that looks more like a thread of nylon.
It is then loaded onto a type of spool called a bobbin
These fibers are then stretched to increase their strength and elasticity.
It then wound them onto another spool in a process called “drawing”
The Econyl® fibers can then be spun into yarn, treated with chemicals, and dyed.
It is then ready to be woven into consumer apparel (knit loosely to be stretchy, woven tightly to be used industrially - this is where you turn the Econyl® into whatever you want!)
Nylon is just one example of a synthetic material that is constantly being created and discarded into the ocean and landfills regularly. That is why it becomes imperative to find non polluting and durable alternatives. We encourage the BEDI community to stay informed on the ways their garments are made and perhaps promote the creation of clothes made of upcycled materials as we are taking a more mindful approach to innovation to protect our planet.
If you have questions concerning our use of Econyl® in our bags and outerwear, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.