Is nylon eco-friendly?
Nylon is one of those fabrics you probably wouldn’t be able to live without right? You need nylon stockings to be able to wear your sustainable dresses all year round right?
But even though you might not wanna hear the question, you probably asked yourself this question while building your sustainable wardrobe: Is nylon eco-friendly?
Because even though it would be pretty hard to give up nylon as a material, it is kind of nice to know the truth about the textiles you are wearing right?
What is nylon made from?
Nylon is a synthetic material. A synthetic polymer to be more specific. That means that to produce nylon, chemicals have to be involved. Nylon is thereby not a natural fabric.
Nylon is made from crude oil, which after undergoing a harsh chemical process will end up as the stretchy fabric you know as nylon.
To be a bit more scientific, nylon is a type of material called polymers, which is made through a condensation polymerization reaction. This reaction forms a large polymer – a large nylon sheet. But if the nylon is to be used for clothes, the manufacturing process doesn’t end here.
Then the nylon sheet has to be broken into smaller pieces, melted, and lastly put through a mechanical spinner which will then produce the nylon you know from your stockings. So as you can see, nylon isn’t exactly natural, and it needs to go through a highly chemical process before it can be used in your stockings.
So at the moment, the answer to the question; is nylon eco-friendly, doesn’t seem to be a resounding yes.
Is Nylon a plastic?
Without going too much into chemicals and scientific detail, nylon is made of a sort of plastic. Basically, nylon is made of a type of plastic, which is derived from crude oil. But it is not the same as the kind of plastic your water bottle is made from.
As we already found out, nylon is a polymer. The polymer is plastic with super-long and heavy molecules. Nylon is then built up of short endless repeating sections of atoms.
Yes, I know this might sound very technical, but all you have to know is that nylon actually belongs to a whole family of very similar materials called Polyamides. This makes nylon a synthetic material since it has to undergo a very chemical process before it can be used in clothes such as your trainers and stockings.
Is Nylon Biodegradable?
No, nylon is not biodegradable. Since nylon is made from polymer, which is a type of plastic, it isn’t seen as a natural material.
To even make nylon, harsh chemicals have to be used in the manufacturing process. Unfortunately all this combined means that nylon isn’t biodegradable.
Sadly this means nylon won’t decay naturally in a way that isn’t harmful to the earth if you throw it in nature. And believe it or not – this has lead to some pretty big polluting problems.
Nylon often ends up in landfills or the ocean – which causes harm to the environment. Luckily more and more initiatives are made to remove nylon from the ocean and landfills, but more on that later.
How does Nylon affect the environment?
Well, since nylon isn’t a natural fabric and isn’t biodigradable the fabric persist in the environment infinitely.
So if you throw nylon on a landfill or into the ocean, it will stay there forever.
To make nylon harsh chemicals is a must. These chemicals can be really bad for the environment if they end up in the eco-system. Such a synthetic fabric as nylon will definitely have a high emission of pollution.
So the process of making nylon isn’t very eco-friendly and the fabric in itself isn’t eco-friendly – especially not if it end up in landfills.
Where does Nylon come from?
Nylon is a man-made fabric. This means it nylon isn’t derived from nature, such as cotton, but needs chemicals to end up as the material that is used in stockings.
Nylon is actually one of the first synthetic fabrics. It was invented by the organic chemist Wallace Carothers in 1934.
Nylon is entirely synthetic, unlike semi-synthetic materials such as bamboo, since it has no basis in any organic materials.
Nylon became popular in the garment industry during World War II as a substitute for fabrics such as silk.
Nylon vs polyester
Both nylon and polyester are synthetic fabrics. They are actually more similar than different. Both fabrics are easy to clean, wrinkle resistant, and often cheap.
But of course, there is a some differences as well.
Nylon is more stretchy than polyester, is often has a more shiny look than polyester, and sometimes it is a bit softer than polyester.
Both fabrics however are strong and light-weighted, but nylon is mostly a bit stronger than polyester.
Polyester dries faster than nylon since nylon actually absorbs water, which means it takes longer for nylon garments to dry. Polyester also resists pilling better than nylon (I can’t count how many times I broke a pair of nylon stockings.
So if you want to know which one of the two materials is best, it really depends on what you are going to use it for.
Is nylon waterproof?
You might think that because nylon is a plastic and sythetic material, it might have other qualities. Like being waterproof. But unfortunately nylon isn’t waterproof. Actually nylon will actually absorb nylon and if it gets wet, it will let the water pass right through.
Haven’t you worn your tights in the rain and ended up getting soaking wet? Well, there is your proof that nylon, unfortunately, isn’t capable of keeping you dry in case of a cloudburst.
But there are some techniques that can make nylon repel water better. You might even have some clothes or a bag where these techniques are used, this also decreases nylons level of absorption.
Is nylon breathable?
Nylon isn’t exactly the best thing to wear in hot weather. Nylon traps your heat and makes sure you stay warm. That doesn’t sound like the perfect match for a hot summer right?
Nylon is great for winter wear, but it isn’t the best fabric of you are looking for a breathable one, that won’t make you sweat even more.
Can nylon be recycled?
The question; is nylon eco-friendly raises another question: can nylon be recycled?
An increasing number of fashion brands are turning to recycled nylon. You might have heard about all the hype about the bags from Prada’s program Prada Re-nylon, where the high-end fashion brand is using recycled nylon to produce their extremely popular bags.
But it isn’t exactly cheap recycling nylon. It isn’t exactly easy to recycle either. On top of that polymers, or plastic, are cheap to buy new, so many companies choose to buy new nylon instead of recycling the nylon they already have.
Other than being costly nylon-recycling is also time consuming. Since nylon is melted ta a low temperature things such as bacteria can in worst case survive. therefor nylon needs to be cleaned before the recycling process even can begin. Especially since a lot of recycled nylon is made from fishing nets.
But recycling nylon is possible, and luckily more and more companies are doing it. By recycling, nylon companies help assure the textile doesn’t end up in landfills and the ocean and thereby helping to make a more eco-friendly nylon alternative.
Want to learn more about textiles?
Do you want to learn more about the textiles used in your clothes? Then check out all out textile guide.
Here you can find out whether bamboo actually is as sustainable as you might think. Or if viscose is an eco-friendly material.
You can find all our material guide right her.