With the continuous environmental degradation and extensive exploration of our planet’s scarce natural resources, it is evident that we are reaching nature’s limits. However, increasing awareness of a new economic model, the circular economy, has enabled companies to seize new opportunities and expand into innovative territories.
Such is the case of Aquafil, one of the leading international players in the production of fibres and polymers, primarily of Nylon 6, Dryarn and XLA, but also, more recently, the inventor and producer of ECONYL®, a polyamide made from 100% recycled raw materials. These waste materials include post-consumer waste such as fishing nets, carpets, clothing, rugs, and rigid textiles, as well as pre-consumer waste like oligomers, scraps and others generated from the production of Nylon 6.
ECONYL® is used in the production of BCF (bulk continuous filaments), a material used in the manufacture of carpet flooring, and in NTF (nylon textile filaments), used in the production of textile clothing. ECONYL® NTF is already used in garments by brands like La Perla and Adidas, which is a great step forward in the textile sector, given that 20% of the global production of waste comes from the textile and apparel sectors.
ECONYL® can also be regenerated an infinite number of times to produce new polymers with a quality and technical characteristics equivalent to products obtained from fossil materials; it also enables savings of about 7 barrels of oil per ton of regenerated polymers.
“We have transformed our linear business model into a circular business model. We are closing the loop by not taking fossil fuels from the planet and by diverting waste from landfill. I think in 20 years we will either be fully sustainable or we will have been pushed out of the market”, said Guilio Bonazzi, CEO of Aquafil.
The most important sources of the raw material replacing oil are floor coverings and fishing nets, collected by Aquafil from all over the world. According to a joint FAO and UN Environmental Program report, fishing nets account for more than 10% of all the waste found in the sea. To increase the efficiency of the ECONYL® Regeneration System, Aquafil has set up a structured international waste collection network based on partnerships with institutions, customers, and both public and private associations. The ECONYL® Reclaiming Program allows Aquafil to gather large quantities of materials from all over the world, including the United States, Egypt, Pakistan, Thailand, Norway and Turkey.
Since the introduction of ECONYL® and their Eco-Pledge®, Aquafil’s commitment towards full sustainability, they have reduced water consumption by 15% and increased the amount of recycled non-hazardous waste by 21%. In 2014, Aquafil joined the CE100 program founded by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The objective of the CE100 program is to build a global platform that will accelerate and lead market development towards a circular economy.