Five years ago, on May 19th 2011, Giulio Bonazzi cut the ribbon of the ECONYL® plant in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The journey of the Aquafil Group through recycling started some years before and had been full of adventures and experimentations. We started using our own waste, then mixed virgin caprolactam (our prime raw material) with the regenerated material from pre-consumer waste . And then finally ECONYL® was born in 2011 – a 100% regenerated Nylon yarn produced using both pre- and post-consumer waste, and not only regenerated but regenerable an infinite number of times. And the quality was indistinguishable from virgin nylon.
At the very beginning of this journey, the ECONYL® logo was green, and we were still figuring out how to improve the supply chain of waste to keep up with a growing industrial production. We had to answer questions such as: Where can we find waste material? How can we clean it and prepare it? Was the whole process from a lifecycle point of view really sustainable? We went through all of these questions, measured everything, improved the processes and measured again. Today, the ECONYL® logo is blue, and the world of sustainability has changed a lot. More and more brands are asking for our ECONYL® yarn, not only for the beautiful story behind it but also for the environmental advantages. Not only we are recovering waste that would otherwise be dumped into landfills or nature and giving it a new life, but we are also saving raw fossil material and halving CO2 emission by using waste instead of a derivative of oil.
But how did we create a whole new approach to production and how did a whole industrial plant came to life? It was only though collaboration. We had to build all the machines for the plant, create the purification process, the chemistry and the supply chain, and look for suppliers in the most unimaginable places and industries. We started of course with our direct clients. We were supplying yarn for carpets, so we thought about recovering the face fiber from end-of-life carpets and regenerate it to make new yarn. Then, looking for other streams of waste, we found out about fishing nets and discovered that many are made of Nylon 6. So suddenly, among our suppliers, we also had the fishing industry, and we were recovering from them the old nets coming from fish farms and fishing activities. But what about the nets that were lost at sea and were trapping millions of marine animals for hundreds of years? Here is when the Healthy Seas initiative was created. From the idea of a European NGO, ECNC Land & Sea Group, Aquafil and Star Sock, the initiative began 3 years ago with the purpose of recovering fishing nets from the seas with the help of volunteer divers and then regenerate them into yarn for new textile products. Since then, many technical partners and companies from the fashion and carpet industries joined the initiative helping us to expand the cleaning activities and to implement prevention measures in collaboration with the fishing community.
At the very beginning of the ECONYL® journey, we published a book with some pictures of the ECONYL® plant under construction and some thoughts on the journey that had just begun.
Now those words are still relevant. The ECONYL® Regeneration Process is still a journey, and we are still studying, developing and improving. But five years have passed. Great partnerships have been made while others are still to come. We thank all our clients and suppliers, those who supported us from the beginning, and those who are just joining us now as well as the Aquafil team who invented and developed this process. When you are starting a journey like this, in the unknown, the road is built day by day, and all those who join it are contributing with ideas and partnerships to shape the future.
Join us in celebrating the 5th birthday of ECONYL® and be part of our future!
The video below is a short version of a longer video about the ECONYL® Regeneration System.