Recycled Nylon

Our recycled nylon products, including jackets, trench coats and sneakers, are made from pre-consumer waste as part of our journey to provide more Earth-positive solutions.

The problem.

Nylon (polyamide) is the second-most used synthetic fiber globally, after polyester [according to the Textile Exchange Preferred Market report 2022]  It is categorized as a synthetic fiber because it is a human-made material that comes from finite natural fossil fuels like petroleum, crude oil and coal. 

The overuse of synthetic materials from fossil fuels has greatly contributed to our planet’s current environmental crisis. Fossil fuels are formed below the Earth’s surface over millions of years. The extraction and refining of fossil fuels is energy and chemically intensive and linked to water poisoning, air and land pollution, smog and—the big one—global warming.

Fossil fuels can’t be replenished naturally at the rate at which we consume them, making them non-renewable. Another concern that is also linked with many synthetic materials, including nylon, is the complex end of life possibilities and pollution risk from microfibres and toxin release from degradation.

Recycling infrastructure that is available at scale is still within it’s infancy. The best end of life scenarios for synthetics are mechanical or chemical recycling pathways, but these are limited, and difficult to connect to consumer-accessible waste streams. Once you’re finished with your item, crude oil compounds, like the ones used in synthetic fabrics, are resistant to environmental degradation, and their incomplete breakdown results in toxic substances that pose big threats to environmental and human health. We are working to develop bio-based and biodegradable solutions, but we are not there yet.

Textiles shed tiny fibers (microfibers) throughout their existence, including during their manufacturing, while you wear and wash them, and when you’ve disposed of them. These microfibers are now prevalent through water systems and are a significant cause of water and air pollution. One of the most urgent concerns is that these toxin-filled microfibers have entered global food cycles as they are ingested by marine life.

The Solution.

We use 100% recycled content from pre-consumer sources. Using recycled fibers helps reduce the fashion industry’s reliance on finite, non-renewable virgin materials while also reducing the amount of (post-industrial) waste generated by the industry. 

Plus, it helps extend the lifespan of fibers and could divert fabric waste from landfill and incinerators.

That said, it is important to note that just because an item is made from recycled materials doesn’t mean it is itself recyclable. Less than 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing, (Source: the EMF, 2017) due to many barriers, like technical difficulties in separating blended fabrics and limited collection and sorting capacity.

Additionally, the possibility of fiber fragmentation from washing, and wearing is greater, meaning that although recycled qualities solve a problem for feedstocks, they don’t solve the problem of microfiber release. In fact, they can increase microfiber release. We are exploring solutions to limit microfiber release but this is a complex topic.

At PANGAIA, we are prioritizing circular solutions that prevent linear waste systems, such as landfill. The current reality is that an estimated 92 million tons of textiles end up in landfill globally every year (a garbage truck full every second, according to a BBC report. We have yet to launch a fully circular collection that includes a take back to recycle solution, but we’re working on it.

Enhanced degradation nylon.

As mentioned, most synthetics do not biodegrade in landfill. When we aren’t using recycled nylon, we use solutions, like enhanced degradation nylons, that enables non-ecotoxic biodegradation.

The specially formulated nylon has the ability to biodegrade in around 5 years when disposed of in oxygen-poor (anaerobic) environments (such as controlled landfills) as demonstrated by laboratory tests in accordance with ASTM D5511 (equivalent to ISO 15985). While we rely on tests to provide guidance on end-of-life scenarios, a lab environment is not always reflective of the real-world. 

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