NYLON: HOW SUSTAINABLE IS NYLON?
Updated: May 9
In the last few years consumers are becoming more conscious of what fabrics are being used in the garments they wear. This has led to many brands creating more sustainable garments. In the swimwear world, swimwear brands are also starting to use more sustainable fabrics such as fabrics are use recycled fibres. Nylon is a stretchy fabric usually used for tights and other hosiery garments. However it can also be used in swimwear or activewear garments.
History of Nylon
Nylon was initially made in a laboratory and first became available around the second world war. It was used during the war because of how durable it is and its strength, mostly used for ropes and parachutes. Nylon also replaced silk, due to how much cheaper it is. Nylon was used for stockings instead of making stockings from silk. While it was the second world war, cotton was very popular, around 80% of cotton was used for textiles in America. Then wool was the second most used fabric. By the mid 1940s, synthetic fabrics started to be used more, around 25%. After the war, there became a shortage in fabrics that they would typically use like cotton or silk so they started used nylon from the parachutes to make garments.
What is Nylon?
Nylon is made from crude oil, which is later processed, becoming a type of plastic. Then it goes through a chemical process that is very intensive causing it to be really strong and stretchy so it can be used as a fabric.
Nylon is from a clan of fabrics called polyamides which are made from chemicals found in carbon. These originate from petroleum and coal in very hot temperatures and high pressure. This is called condensation polymerisation which forms a massive polymer, creating a sheet of nylon. Now, inorder to create nylon fabric for clothing, this nylon sheet is broken down into pieces that are then melted down through a mechanical spinneret to make the fibres which will then be used to make the nylon fabric.
There are numerous types of Nylon fabrics, that all have various properties and uses. However they are mutually strong and can be shaped. The negatives of nylon is that it isn’t biodegradable, therefore if you have torn your tights it goes to a landfill for a minimum of 28 years.
Where is nylon made?
Originally nylon was developed in America. As it became more well known for its properties and recognised around world it became being produced around the world. However America was the main producer of the fabric until the 1980s. Around the 1980s a lot of fabrics and manufacturing moved to China. Therefore nylon began being produced there as well as Pakistan and India. Today, America is still producing nylon however to a much smaller scale.
How to make Nylon fabric?
In order to make the fabric, the first step is extracting Diamine acid. Diamine acid is a monomer which is extracted from crude oil. Then the Diamine is forced into a adipic acid to make a polymer which is acknowledged as nylon salt. The next step is heating the substance to make it in to a molten matter. After it is extruded through a metal spinneret. To make it turn into fibres, it is put on to a bobbin. The fibres are stretched to intensify the durability and elasticity. Then the fibres wound onto another spool in a process called ‘drawing.’ The end result of the drawing process is the fibres are ready to be spun into clothing. It can also now be dyed to a desired colour.
How much does it cost to make nylon fabric?
Nylon is reasonably cheap to manufacture, however when it was first established it was even more costly than silk. On the other hand, it has decreased in price even more so when it is weaved with other fibres.
Does Nylon impact the environment?
Nylon does have a negative impact on the environment. The main reason for this is that the raw material used to make nylon is from crude oil. Fracking and drilling is involved which is very damaging to the ecosystems especially because petroleum is not ecological.
Nylon contributes to greenhouse gases that create nitrous oxides that is more toxic than carbon dioxide. It also requires a lot of water in the process of making it, contributing to pollution. Nylon needs so much energy to make it, which contributes to global warming and environmental factors.
As nylon is a type of plastic it can be recycled, there are many brands out there recycling it to make more sustainable garments. Econyl has created a more sustainable fabric which is made from recycled plastics which reduce so much waste and emissons. Econyl is created in Italy using synthetic waste from nets used in the sea and regenerating them into new nylon fibres. Overall, nylon may not be a sustainable fabric originally however it can be re-used to make new things. Recycling the fabric and adaption of sustainable packaging are a great way to reduce waste and help the environment.
At Swimwear Manufacturers, we can source Econyl for your swimwear styles to help you create a more sustainable collection. We source our Econyl fabric from Europe. Our Econyl fabric comes in various colour ways and weights which can suit many swimwear styles. The fabric itself is very durable and stretchy and surprisingly soft so its nice on the skin. We ensure to source quality fabrics for the manufacturing.