We’re thrilled to be celebrating nine years since our ECONYL® regenerated nylon was created and launched to the market. It’s strange to be celebrating these days, but we are living in a moment of great reflection, so it becomes natural to see our story in connection with so much that has changed in the world in nine years, especially now with everything that COVID-19 has made more visible and accelerated.
Sustainability slowly went from being a problem of individual choices to being a broader topic that needed strong industry collaboration. Sustainability has proven that it can also be good for business and innovation, all while demanding more and more from outside the industry and the public.
Today, it’s encouraging to see Google trends measuring a + 4550 % in searches for “How to live a sustainable lifestyle” over the past 90 days (measured on April 28, 2020).
So, there is no better time to celebrate nine years of our journey into sustainability with ECONYL® than right now. We decided to go through nine highlights that speak to our incredible collaborations. We hope that each highlight from our story can inspire others into similar activities and together we can contribute to more sustainable industries and products.
1. Aquafil together with another company, Star Sock and an NGO from the Netherlands creates the Healthy Seas Initiative. A project were volunteer divers recover fishing nets in the seas and help create awareness about the danger of ghost nets.
Who would imagine that one day a manufacturing company producing nylon could partner with an NGO to source its raw materials? But it happened. We discovered that fishing nets are often made of nylon 6 so old nets could be a waste source to collect and recycle into ECONYL® nylon. Up to date the Healthy Seas initiative has recovered 510 tons of fishing nets and works every day together with fisherman and fish farmers.
Tip #1: Look outside of your usual business network to find new collaborations also with NGOs
2. 2016 In the Aquafil plant in Slovenia, where the ECONYL® regeneration process takes place, there is an excess of thermal energy from the industrial process. Aquafil decides to build a set of pipes going under the road and to its neighbors, a big water park called Atlantis. Today, all the facilities and the swimming pools of this waterpark are heated with the excess energy coming from the nearby Aquafil plant.
This is a small but interesting project and an example of how collaborations can have great environmental benefits. Since Atlantis now uses energy, which is already there, there is no need for that amount of energy to be generated, as in the past, from carbon-based fuels.
Tip #2: Look beyond the horizon, think outside the box, and we are sure you’ll find new opportunities and collaborations to raise the sustainability of your business.
3. 2018/19 Dealing with the recycling of blended material is very complicated and our plant can regenerate nylon only. This is the reason why in 2018 Aquafil developed a piece of equipment that could separate the nylon of the aquaculture fishing nets from the plasticizer added as a coating to avoid sea-grass growing. This way, it was possible to recover the nylon fraction but also copper oxide, included in the plasticizer.
From this project, the idea and technology used for the Aquafil Carpet Recycling were born. So, in 2018 and 2019 Aquafil opened two carpet recycling facilities in the USA to disassemble old carpets and recover all the components for recycling. The nylon of the carpets goes into the ECONYL® regeneration process to make nylon for new products.
There is so much you can learn when trying to recycle the same product you produce or contribute to producing. Giulio Bonazzi, Aquafil CEO, calls this “designing with the end in mind”. This means thinking about recycling while you are still designing the product and make it easier to recycle its components.
Tip #3: Already from the early design phase of your product try considering materials, recyclability and disassembly of the product at the end of its lifetime.
4. Since 2013 Aquafil started partnering with event organizers to create green-red carpets for important events. The most important collaborations have been for the Green carpet Fashion Awards in Milan (for three years), with the CFDA in New York (2 years) and with Neocon, the most important tradeshow for contract design in the US.
The red carpet is often a place where artists, designers and actors use their influence and visibility to spread important messages. We thought to do the same and made the whole red carpet a message. By using our ECONYL® regenerated and regenerable nylon instead of other materials, our carpet has a different story. It can be beautiful and it’s also sustainable and can be recycled after the events.
Tip #4: Make your sustainability story visible to many
5. 2019 — Prada launches the new Re-Nylon collection of their iconic bag, but this time the nylon used is ECONYL® regenerated nylon. To support and illustrate this choice Prada created a series of five video together with national Geographic to show the waste collection around the world and the process to regenerate waste material into ECONYL® regenerated nylon.
Tip #5: Share behind the scene stories of your supply chain
6. 2020 ECONYL® regenerated nylon is used for the first time to make eyewear and a unique ergonomic chair.
In February, Safilo, a worldwide leader in the design, manufacturing, and distribution of eyewear, announced the introduction of ECONYL® regenerated nylon in its eyewear collections. The new TOMMY JEANS eyewear collection, recently launched by Tommy Hilfiger, one of the licensed brands in Safilo’s portfolio, is the first that features styles made of ECONYL®. Safilo will progressively introduce this material also in its other brands’ collections.
noho tapped into ECONYL® nylon for its sustainable and regenerative qualities to reimagine conventional furniture design. The noho move™ chair was created to transform the traditional static nature of home furniture by integrating the dynamic ergonomic comfort of a premium office chair and sustainable design, to create a chair that flexes and flows with any body and can last a lifetime.
Tip #6: Try to improve new products, make them more sustainable and create long lasting relationships.
7. 2019 — Blazing a trail in circular innovation, premium casualwear brand Napapijri (VF Group) unveiled Infinity, its first circular, 100% recyclable jacket. Infinity’s main material innovation is its mono-material composition — nylon 6. The use of one material allows for an easier recycling process — the jacket can enter the ECONYL® regeneration process as it is — and fibers are upcycled without losing any of their original characteristic or quality.
Tip #7: Make revolutionary products that can inspire the entire industry and show a new way forward
8. 2020 –From the Lyst report: “With searches for sustainable fashion up 75% year on year, eco-conscious activewear is one of the biggest trends we can expect to see more of in 2020. Meanwhile searches for specific sustainable materials commonly used in activewear have risen year on year: 102% for ECONYL®, 130% for repreve, 42% for tencel and 52% for organic cotton. More than ever shoppers are now choosing eco-friendly options when heading to the gym; searches for “sustainable activewear” are at an all-time high, up 151% compared to the previous year”.
Tip #8: The public is eager to know more about the materials you use, and the sustainability actions you are taking. Share them!
9. Now — we arrive at today, with our latest project #Designersforchange that invites all designers into a dialogue and a conversation about this moment and the future of sustainable design and fashion. You can follow this on Instagram and you can join the conversation and share your idea of design as a powerful change maker. We believe designers have a great power to change the way we design but also, we consume and dispose of products, and the way we design and live in our spaces and cities. This is our next mission and the next hundreds of partnership we want to establish.
Tip #9: Keep the conversations always open and try to inspire people in your network to create meaningful collaborations and share ideas.