Is DuPont nylon biodegradable? (7 applications of DuPont nylon)

In this article, the biodegradability of DuPont nylon will be discussed. Other covered topics would be: 

  • What is DuPont nylon?
  • What are synthetic fibres & polymers?
  • What are the applications of synthetic resins?
  • What is nylon?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Why should nylon be biodegradable?
  • Is DuPont nylon eco-friendly?
  • FAQs

Is DuPont nylon biodegradable?

No, it is not degradable.  DuPont is a thermoplastic polymer which is synthesised in the lab by the use of chemicals. Therefore, it is not biodegradable. 

It also has various negative impacts on the environment that affect almost all areas and aspects of life. 

However, in response to these effects, there are also several green initiatives as an answer to all these negative effects of DuPont nylon. 

What is DuPont nylon? (7 applications of DuPont nylon)

DuPont nylon is a nylon resin that may appear silk-like in texture and structure. It is a thermoplastic which is made from petroleum that can further be processed into fibres, films or shapes. 

Thermoplastic polymers can be explained as those polymers that are moldable at high temperatures but once they cool down, they show no change in their chemical properties. 

DuPont nylon is made by DuPont Zytel which began its production in 1954. There are various applications of DuPont nylon such as: 

  • Automotive industry 
  • Electric and electronic industry 
  • Construction 
  • Railway technology 
  • Plastics for sports
  • 3D Printing 
  • Polymers used for appliances 

What are the applications of synthetic resin?

DuPont nylon is a synthetic resin also called a thermoplastic polymer. Let us discuss some applications and properties of synthetic resin and polymers. 

These are some examples of synthetic resins that have numerous applications in various sectors/domains/ industries. These include: 

  • Apparel 
  • Architecture
  • Construction
  • Automotive 
  • Electrical 
  • Electronic
  • Medical 
  • Marine 
  • Biotechnology 
  • Pharmaceutical 

What are synthetic fibres & polymers?

Synthetic fibres are fibres that humans make through synthetic processes that do involve the use of various chemicals to achieve the numerous functions given off by synthetic fibres. 

Synthetic fibres are made from polymers which are rooted in petroleum-based products such as coal, crude oil et cetera. 

A polymer is a substance that contains long, repeating chains of molecules. An example of polymers can be PET, which is plastic. 

The need for synthetic fibres arose after it was realised that natural fibres have their limitations and to meet the rising demands, humanity should resort to labs to meet those demands instead of fields. 

Conventionally, only natural fibres were used that were sourced from plants and animals. Examples included cotton, jute and wool. While these natural fibres exhibited great properties, they just were not enough to cater for the rising needs. Further, they also cost a bit heavy on the pocket. 

As an answer to these needs, scientists produced synthetic fibres that were cheap and of good utilitarian value. The basic essence was to cater to the demands of fibres while causing the least stress to the environment and the economy. 

Examples of these synthetic fibres and polymers may be: 

  • Nylon 
  • Lyocell 
  • Acetate
  • Acrylic 
  • Microfibre 
  • Rayon 
  • Polyester 

What is nylon?

Nylon is a commonly used synthetic polymer that is made in the labs by the use of various chemicals. It may be clear that nylon is a man-made product and is not derived from nature. 

Like other synthetic polymers, nylon also exhibits unique properties that give it an edge in various applications and industries. Nylon may have the following properties: 

  • Good mechanical strength 
  • Electrical insulation 
  • Resistance to radiation 
  • Mechanical damping 
  • Fatigue resistance 
  • Wear-protection 

Owing to these properties, it is used in a number of applications. These include: 

  • Switchgear
  • Tents
  • Fishing line
  • Gloves
  • Wheels
  • Wear pads
  • Toothbrushes
  • Medical implants
  • Sports equipment 
  • Machine guards
  • Wear strips and chain guards
  • 3d printing
  • Use as fibres
  • Plumbing fitting
  • Construction

However, since nylon is made in the lab with the involvement of multiple chemicals, it is considered harmful to both humans and the environment. These negative impacts may include:

  • Global warming
  • Deforestation 
  • Soil erosion 
  • Loss of life
  • Destruction of habitats 
  • Infiltration into food chains 
  • Soil and water toxicity 
  • Pollution 
  • The rise in sea levels 
  • Unprecedented weather patterns 
  • Disruption of aquatic ecosystems

Some of the negative effects of nylon on health may be: 

  • Skin irritation
  • Eye diseases 
  • Cancers
  • Neurotoxicity 
  • Digestion problems 
  • Necrosis 
  • Psychological issues

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be defined as a process through which complex substances are converted into simpler substances by the action of microbes. These microbes can be bacteria, fungi, algae, decomposers, and protozoa. 

Biodegradability can be analogised to the Earth’s natural way to deal with and dispose of waste. If there is no biodegradability, then it means that waste accumulation and toxicity are inevitable. 

However, although nature made sure that no waste remained in the environment, man infiltrated and exploited this very basic code of nature. 

Man created those substances that were synthesised in the lab which mother nature is unable to degrade or dispose of. 

In simpler words, man-made substances can not be degraded by the action of microbes because microbes are unable to break down the structure of these substances. 

As a result, waste may remain in the environment for as long as a thousand years. A common example can be plastics. Plastics are manufactured polymers that are synthesised in the lab with the use of chemicals. 

Since these are created in the lab, they may persist in the environment for hundreds of years and may cause all sorts of damage to life and the environment. Among these there are: 

  • Loss of life
  • Pollution (air, water and land) 
  • Depletion of oxygen availability in water bodies 
  • Species endangerment 
  • Change in soil characteristics 
  • Toxification of plants
  • Infiltration in food webs 
  • Global warming 
  • Ozone layer damage 

These are some of the few environmental impacts caused by non-biodegradable waste. Non-biodegradable waste also causes harm to the animal and human life. The various health risks associated with non-biodegradable waste can be:

  • Lungs infection 
  • Liver infection 
  • Damage to foetus 
  • Neurological impairment 
  • Cancer 
  • Genetic mutations 
  • Behavioural changes 
  • Eye diseases
  • Skin infections 

Why should DuPont nylon be biodegradable?

DuPont nylon should be biodegradable because otherwise, it will become impossible to manage waste. If waste is not managed, then its accumulation will toxicate our world and make it unlivable. 

The current waste generation stands at around 2 billion tons and is expected to cross the 3 billion tons threshold in the years to come. 

In these 2 billion tons, more than 40% of the waste is not managed and disposed of properly, and as a result, we observe various negative impacts that have been discussed in the previous sections. 

That is why, there is an increased need for nylon to be biodegradable. Even in the current scenario, 8 billion pounds of nylon is made every year. If this 8 billion pound has the capacity to remain in the environment for hundreds of years, the results would be beyond catastrophic. 

Is DuPont nylon biodegradable?

It has been discussed that for a material to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural substances and preferably without the use of harmful chemicals. 

Examples of natural products may be: 

  • Food waste
  • Human waste 
  • Manure Sewage 
  • Hospital waste 
  • Dead animals & Plants 
  • Waste from slaughterhouse 
  • Toilet paper

However, DuPont nylon is not made from natural products mentioned above because it is synthesised in the lab with the use of chemicals. Therefore, it can be said that DuPont nylon is not biodegradable. 

This implies that DuPont nylon has the capacity to remain in the environment for a very long time and can cause various detrimental impacts on life and the environment. 

It is claimed that the most affected by the curse of non-biodegradability of DuPont nylon are aquatic species and marine species because DuPont nylon can infiltrate their ecosystem and cause deaths and other negative effects. 

Since DuPont nylon is a polymer made from fossil products, it is involved in the negative effects that are caused by the use of fossil fuels. These effects may include global warming and changing climatic conditions. In simple words, the use of nylon affects all aspects and areas of our lives. 

Is DuPont nylon eco-friendly?

After discussing biodegradability, it is important to discuss the eco-friendliness of DuPont nylon. The general rule of thumb is that if something is not biodegradable, it also can not be eco-friendly. 

That is majorly because if a material is not biodegradable, then it implies that it will take hundreds of years to degrade. In this case, there will be an increased accumulation of waste which may toxicate the environment in a very bad way. 

In the case of DuPont nylon, the same rule of thumb applies. DuPont nylon, other than being non-biodegradable, is also not eco-friendly and causes several negative impacts on the environment. 

The most prominent impact of DuPont nylon is the use of fossil-derived products in production. An example of these fossil fuel derivatives may be hexamethylenediamine which is linked to global warming and various forms of pollution. 

Since DuPont nylon is non-biodegradable, it may remain in the atmosphere or the environment for hundred to thousand of years and cause pollution and environmental degradation. 

DuPont nylon is made by the use of various chemicals that may pollute soil, and aquatic ecosystems, cause loss of life and toxicate water. These chemicals may also end up in our foods and drinking water because they may infiltrate food chains. 

DuPont nylon is also linked with the disposal of microplastics. These microplastics are known to impact more than 700 species of animals on land and countless marine and aquatic species. The negative impacts of microplastics are beyond imaginable. 

Are there any green alternatives to DuPont Nylon?

You must be wondering that given the context of all the negative impacts of nylon and DuPont nylon on the environment and life, is there something you can do as a consumer? 

The answer is yes. There is a lot that you can do as a consumer and user to curb these negative effects given off by nylon. 

First, you must be minimal in your use of products that have harmful effects on the environment. If you are inclined to use DuPont nylon, make sure that you use it in a sustainable manner so that balanced amounts are used. 

Next, you must make sure that you dispose of nylon correctly. Proper knowledge and awareness are key here. 

There are various green initiatives that are intended to curb the negative effects of DuPont nylon. There is bio-based DuPont nylon which can act as a replacement. Its use will solve the issue of biodegradability and eco-friendliness. 

Another one of these is Econyl. Econyl is a nylon-like material which is made from recycled nylon. 

Since it is made from recycled nylon, it offers the following advantages: 

  • It reduces the amount of non-biodegradable waste found in the environment 
  • It reduces the formation of nylon fibres (which is associated with fossil fuels) 
  • It promotes recycling 
  • It avoids the use of hexamethylenediamine which is a fossil fuel derivative and linked to global warming and pollution 
  • It reduces the stress caused by waste on the waste management systems by reusing discarded products 

Econyl is not the only green alternative to conventional nylon in the consumer marketplace. With increased environmental awareness, there are various versions of nylon that are made from plants and hence are biodegradable. 

These include nylon 11 which is made from castor beans. Nylon 6 has also been synthesised from microbes that feed on plant sugars or glucose. 

Although this bio-based nylon is not that readily available, its optimum availability in the years to come is inevitable given the negative impacts of nylon. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that DuPont is a thermoplastic polymer which is synthesised in the lab by the use of chemicals. Therefore, it is not biodegradable. 

It also has various negative impacts on the environment that affect almost all areas and aspects of life. 

However, in response to these effects, there are also several green initiatives as an answer to all these negative effects of DuPont nylon. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is DuPont nylon biodegradable?

What are some examples of synthetic polymers?

These examples may include polyester, polyethylene and epoxy. All these are synthesised in the lab. 

Why are numbers used in nylon names?

These numbers like nylon 6 or nylon 11 signify the number of carbon atoms that are available in the reactants. In short, these numbers come from the chemical properties of nylon. 

References

  • Cumbers, John. (February 11, 2020). Bio-Nylon Is The New Green: How One Company Is Fermenting A $10 Billion Market. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johncumbers/2020/02/11/bio-nylon-is-the-new-green-how-one-company-is-fermenting-your-future-materials/?sh=4fedd12c4030
  • Chen, D. M. C., Bodirsky, B. L., Krueger, T., Mishra, A., & Popp, A. (2020). The world’s growing municipal solid waste: trends and impacts. Environmental Research Letters, 15(7), 074021.
  • Shakiba, M., Rezvani Ghomi, E., Khosravi, F., Jouybar, S., Bigham, A., Zare, M., … & Ramakrishna, S. (2021). Nylon—A material introduction and overview for biomedical applications. Polymers for Advanced Technologies, 32(9), 3368-3383.
  • MacDermott, C. P., & Shenoy, A. V. (2020). Selecting thermoplastics for engineering applications. CRC Press.

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment