Toray Industries, one of the world’s largest fiber and textile manufacturers, is introducing a line of textiles manufactured from recycled nylon 6 fibers.
Nylon 6 is a key component in the production of outerwear for the outdoor and athletic markets, and is used in about 70 percent of all outerwear. The fiber has a low melting point, is durable, takes colors well and can stand up to a range of treatments.
Kenny Gotcher, a sales executive with Toray, noted that because it is a spun fiber, nylon 6 also has some cotton-like characteristics, such as a soft feel.
Gotcher said outdoor brands such as Patagonia have been leading the way in the production of more environmentally friendly apparel. For example, Patagonia began introducing fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles in 1993 and switched to using organic cotton in 1996.
Founder Yvon Chouinard has set a goal of having all Patagonia clothing made from recycled or recyclable materials by 2010. Other outdoor brands are following suit as their customers’ sensitivity and awareness of environmental issues expands.
“Now being able to offer [nylon 6] from a recycled source is a huge benefit because everyone in the outdoor market is chasing after eco-stories,” said Gotcher.
It has taken Toray several years to develop a process that allows it to recycle waste or off-spec yarn created in the production of its virgin nylon. The post-industrial waste yarn can now be remelted and spun into a yarn. Since the fiber has already gone through the production process, less energy is required to melt it back down. According to Gotcher, recycled nylon 6 uses only 15 percent of the energy necessary to make virgin nylon.
The process should also lessen the amount of carbon dioxide released during the production of nylon 6. Waste nylon is typically burned to produce energy for the production of nylon 6.
The new collection of textiles constructed of recycled nylon 6 is being sold as part of Toray’s Recyclon line, which includes recycled polyester products. The company believes the fibers will hit the consumer market for fall.
Gotcher said recycled nylon is the next step in Toray’s drive to develop a “closed-loop” chemical recycling process for nylon 6. Toray’s goal is to develop a product made with a high percentage of nylon 6 that customers can return once it has been worn out.
“We’d be able to take back a dyed, finished product and break it back down to a raw material and reprocess it into virgin nylon,” said Gotcher. “It’s basically decomposing nylon down to its original state.”