What Is Econyl?
Image: Healthy Seas / Pascal van Erp
When we talk about sustainable swimwear, it’s very likely that the brands we mention will be using Econyl. But what is Econyl? How is it made and why is it considered to be such an environmentally friendly option for swimwear and other fabrics?
The Problem with Ocean Waste
By the year 2050 there is likely to be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This is not just the waste we dump into our oceans but the fishing nets which are discarded by the industry (referred to as ghost nets). As well as the micro fibres that are washed into the water through washing synthetic fabrics. Not only is the clean up of the oceans a priority, but so too is finding a way to put this non biodegradable waste to good use.
What is Econyl & how is it collected
Econyl is an eco friendly alternative to nylon. Nylon is created artificially using plastic to form strands of thread which are then woven together to create fabrics. As it is made of plastic, it doesn’t biodegrade therfore it’s use is a major concern for the environment. Econyl is a yarn created by Aquafil. Originally a leading producer of Nylon 6, (the most common form of nylon), the company added an energy and recycling division to promote more environmentally friendly practises. This lead them to develop a regenerated nylon.
To create Econyl, they collect post industrial consumer plastic waste including carpets, ghost nets and plastic bottles. Organisations such as Healthy Seas and Net Works collect this waste for Aquafil. Net works alone have collected 224 metric tones of waste fishing nets since 2012. The waste is melted down and spun to created the Econyl yarn.
What is it used for?
Econyl has a myriad of uses just like Nylon. It has the same performance as new nylon too, with the added bonus that it can be regenerated over and over again. It’s a strong, durable fibre, making it perfect for activewear and swimwear. However it’s also used to create Karun’s eyewear, and Stella McCartney’s backpacks as well as carpets.
Why is Econyl So Great?
Brands that are concerned with the environmental impact of production and consumption feel that Econyl is a good alternative to Nylon. Swimwear company Davy J have used the fabric since their inception. Founder Helen Newcombe, believes that becoming a circular company is incredibly important and that Econyl will help Davy J achieve this. “(Econyl) provides a smart way to find a use and value for waste material. It also saves precious raw material that is normally used up in the production of virgin nylon.” The infinite regenerative properties of Econyl mean that theoretically, we never have to produce more virgin nylon again.
Has econyl solved all our ocean waste problems?
The proliferation of plastic micro fibres in our oceans, including inside the fish we eat, is due to washing synthetic fabrics such as nylon. Unfortunately, Econyl yarn is not immune to this issue and it’s something that Aquafil are acutely aware of. “Turning this waste into high quality filament fibres removes it from the environment. However we do recognise the need to address potential shedding risks of our end products. Aquafil are carefully monitoring all materials that we incorporate into our products and use in production processes, to avoid negative impacts on people and the environment.”
Various industry sectors that create fabrics, washing machines and washing liquids are currently trying to address the problem. However in the meantime, the only way to avoid micro fibre shedding in our washing is to use a Guppy Friend Bag. It catches any shedding from your clothes in it’s patented bag, allowing you to collect the fibres and throw them into the bin. While it’s not the perfect solution, these micro fibres are at least not ending up in our oceans.
Disclaimer: The people and models in the images featured are not associated with The Vendeur and do not endorse it or the products shown. This post may contain affiliate links. Prices correct at time of publishing.