The fashion and textile industry remains a significant player in the global economy, providing employment for millions of people around the world. It is estimated that between 20 and 60 million people are employed in the textile industry worldwide.

Despite these benefits, it is clear that the way we design, produce and use clothes has some disadvantages for the environment, as large amounts of non-renewable resources are used to produce clothes often only used for a short time. For this reason, the fashion world is also turning towards an eco-sustainable approach. Materials like the nylon , a synthetic fiber, are recycled by many fashion brands to produce quality clothing while respecting the environment.

The history of nylon

The nylon, one synthetic fiber entirely made in the laboratory with the use of polymers , does not break easily and represents about 10% of the debris in the ocean.

Like polyester, nylon is made from a non-renewable resource, the petroleum , in an energy-intensive process. Every time it's washed, it sheds microplastic fibers that end up in waterways and oceans, and since it is not biodegradable , at the end of its life cycle it will end up in a landfill.

According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, more than 600,000 tons of fishing gear is dumped into the oceans each year, including nylon nets . In fact, fishermen often throw damaged or old nets into the sea because the alternative would be to pay someone to dispose of them properly.

The nylon it is not only found in fishing nets . It is also found in clothes, carpets and packaging . It was first introduced at the 1939 New York World's Fair with women's tights.

The popularity of this synthetic fiber it literally exploded after the Second World War. Before 1945, cotton and wool dominated the market, but by the end of the war, synthetic fibers such as nylon had captured 25% of the market share!

The adoption of nylon in common use was mainly determined by the use of this fiber in military supplies.

The regenerated nylon used in the fashion world

Adalu defines itself as an eco-sustainable company in the clothing sector. We gave birth to RENEW collection , using only ELASTANE LYCRA® XTRA LIFE® together with ECONYL® regenerated nylon composed of 100% of nylon scraps such as fishing nets collected from the ocean or fabric scraps recovered from landfills . Being very sensitive to environmental issues and sustainability, we aim for one entirely eco-friendly production in the next years.

Used by various brands around the world in the fashion industry, regenerated nylon it guarantees the same duration and the same performance as virgin nylon : it was crucial that by testing the products made with regenerated nylon, these are functional and qualitatively identical to the products made with new materials.

Consumers are therefore unable to notice wear recycled products unless explicitly told.

The key is to make sure that the accounts add up, which is that the energy balance for the implementation of a new recycled material is really better than a virgin one , and that the performances meet the highest quality standards.

Nylon is just one of the many materials present in our life, let's think what our planet would be like if we recycled all the materials we use!

Nylon is complex to recycle, but we have to!

The regenerated nylon it is a preferable alternative to virgin nylon, but bio-based nylon, i.e. produced with renewable raw materials, is also potentially an interesting alternative.

Regenerated nylon has the same advantages as recycled polyester . Recycling relieves landfills of waste and saves water, energy and the fossil fuel used in the production of virgin nylon.

Much of the regenerated nylon comes made with old fishing nets . This is a great solution to get a lot of trash out of the ocean. Of course, nylon is also made from carpets, tights, carpets and many other products.

Although the nylon recycling still be a costly process , it has many advantages for the environment. A lot of research is currently being done to improve its quality and reduce the cost of the whole process. Recycling is still not an easy operation to carry out.

There contamination it is another source of problems. Unlike metals and glass, which are fused at high temperatures, the nylon is melted at a lower temperature which does not guarantee total elimination of contaminants .

Thus microbes and bacteria could survive. For this reason the nylon must be cleaned thoroughly before the regeneration process.

A wasteful textile industry

Due to the underuse of clothing and lack of recycling, it is estimated that more than $500 billion in value is lost each year, and the average number of times an item of clothing is worn has decreased by 36% since 2000 and 2015.

Even though the textile industry produces and sells between 80 and 150 billion garments a year globally, the World Bank claims that 40% of the clothes bought in some countries are never used .

The production of clothing has doubled under the impetus of an expanding middle class, the emergence of the phenomenon of fast fashion and more new trends and collections driving market growth.

In a 2017 report titled "A New Textile Economy: Reshaping the Future of Fashion," the Ellen McArthur Foundation estimates that if this trend continues, total apparel sales would reach 160 million tons in 2050.

Less than 1% of the material used to make clothing is recycled into new clothing , resulting in a loss of more than $100 billion in materials each year.

Today's linear system, based on the create and waste , uses a large amount of resources and has negative impacts on the environment and people.

Fashion pollutes our planet

According to the World Economic Forum, global fashion manufacturing contributes 10% to carbon emissions on the planet , drying up water sources and polluting rivers and seas.

As stated by the World Economic Forum, 20% of industrial water pollution is attributed to dyeing and treatment of fabrics . It has been estimated that every year about half a million tons of plastic microfibers that are shed during the washing of plastic-based fabrics, such as nylon, polyester or acrylic, end up in the ocean.

Thus it happens that, while on the one hand the local communities benefit from job opportunities, on the other the negative aspects on the environmental side represent a serious threat to health. The simple Untreated manufacturing wastewater discharge can pollute local rivers used for drinking, fishing and irrigating the land.

A 2017 report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that 35% of all microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic that never biodegrade – found in the oceans come from the washing of synthetic fabrics such as polyester.

Fortunately, industry and people are increasingly aware of the devastating effects of the current textile production system, some brands have begun to address these specific socio-environmental challenges within their production chains such as Adalù.

A Nigerian initiative turns nylon into fashion

An innovative solution was born in Nigeria with a responsible initiative that focuses on the training of young people for recycle nylon textile waste .

The initiative, called Planet 3R aims to reduce landfill by recycling nylon clothes and hosiery and creatively shredding old used clothes and hosiery to convert them into finished products.

The initiative employs an ecological strategy as the nylon remains an important pollutant that blocks the sewers and dirty the streets of the main Nigerian cities .

The process involves sorting, washing and thoroughly disinfecting the nylon. Afterwards, this material is dried in the sun and woven into fashionable products. The whole process takes three days.

Once dry, the nylon is shredded with scissors into thin threads and weaving is started on the loom.

The initiative involved the collection of tons of recyclable nylon waste , as well as the awareness of over 4,300 students of various secondary schools on recycling and waste management, training and employment of hundreds of young people.

The project is extremely ambitious and will impact millions of lives over the next 5 years because the idea can be replicated in different communities around the world .

The fashion industry still poses global challenges

Even though nylon has the right texture for weaving and is easy to dye , the disadvantages of using nylon in textile production range from poor resistance to heat and light, deformability and the fact that nylon clothing is subject to pilling (appearance of small balls of fiber on fabrics) after being worn for a long time.

Today most efforts are focused on reducing the impact of the current linear economy system , through the use of more efficient manufacturing techniques , but the challenges of low clothing usage and low post-use recycling rates still persist.

To implement a transition from a linear economy to a circular economy for the textile industry, the Ellen McArthur Foundation proposes a global collaboration in its report.

The time to implement the circular economy and change our consumption system has now arrived.

Science has been telling us for some time that the exploitation of resources has a limit, the report of the Ellen McArthur Foundation must stimulate new sustainable solutions and practices by all the players who are called to transform the textile chain into value.

Valeria Donati