Is econyl biodegradable? (15 applications of econyl) 

In this article, it shall be discussed whether econyl is biodegradable or not. Other covered topics would be: 

  • What is econyl?
  • How effective is econyl?
  • How is econyl made?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Why is waste generation a concern?
  • What is the environmental status of econyl?
  • FAQs 

Is econyl biodegradable?

No, econyl is not biodegradable because it is made from non-biodegradable waste. Econyl is a green alternative because it is intended to reduce waste accumulation by reusing the waste. 

Econyl gives the same utilitarian aspects as conventional nylon. This implies that there is no compromise in quality. 

However, the production of econyl is still clogged with numerous health and environmental risks such as the use of harmful chemicals or dyes, production of microfibres and non-biodegradability aspects. 

What is Econyl?

An introduction to Econyl is essential in determining whether it is biodegradable and eco-friendly. 

Econyl is a fabric that is made from waste products. Its structure and properties are similar to nylon and can be used as a green alternative to nylon because it is made from recycled materials. 

Econyl is also named recycled nylon or waste nylon. Nylon is linked to various negative impacts on the environment and human health. These impacts include: 

  • Global warming
  • Pollution
  • Ozone depletion
  • Destruction of water ecosystems
  • Loss of life
  • Species endangerment 
  • Effects on aquatic species
  • One of the largest contributors to microplastics 

Nylon is also linked to numerous health risks that can be: 

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

In the light of these negative effects of nylon on the environment and human health, we have econyl which is made from recycled materials. 

The story of econyl dates back a decade. In 2010, a company called Aquafil came up with the idea of econyl. This company is also linked to the production of industrial textiles and plastics. 

How effective is econyl? (15 applications of econyl) 

The use of nylon in various industries is well-established. The increased use of nylon is because nylon has a very good utilitarian value while also being cost-efficient. 

However, it is a matter of increased interest what is the utilitarian value of econyl? In other words, does the use of recycled products to make econyl mean that there is any compromise on the quality?

The answer is, no. Econyl has all the attributes and properties (even at molecular and chemical levels), therefore, there is no compromise on the utilitarian value given off by econyl. 

Econyl comes with the following properties: 

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

That is why, Econyl is associated with the apparel, construction and sports industries. Econyl can be used for the following applications: 

  • 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 

How is econyl made?

We have already deliberated on the introduction, properties, and applications of econyl. Let us now explore how econyl is made. 

We already know that econyl is made from recycled waste. This conversion happens in the following steps: 

  • Depolymerisation 
  • Rendering 
  • Extrusion 
  • Loading
  • Stretching 
  • Drawing 
  • Spinning 
  • Weaving 

If these steps are translated into simple language, then this means that first, the waste is converted into a monomer state through the process of depolymerisation. 

After that, the monomers are then made into a polymer state which are then processed. The next steps are the loading and spinning to give distinct properties to econyl. This phase is further enhanced by the use of chemicals and dyes to make sure that there is no compromise on the utilitarian aspect of econyl. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is a process of conversion of complex substances to simpler substances by the action of microbes. The process is important because it is opted by mother nature to make sure that no waste is left. 

If the generated waste is not biodegraded, then there will be many grave impacts on humanity and its future because the occurrence of this waste will render us and the Earth incapacitated to sustain life. 

Biodegradability is brought about by various drivers but the most important driver is microbes. Microbes can be bacteria, fungi, algae, decomposers, protozoa, and also yeast. 

These microbes are capacitated to break down the complex structure but are more compatible with natural substances like plant-based or animal-based waste. However, these microbes do not gel well with synthetic substances and can not degrade them.

Resultantly, synthetic materials like polymers or e-waste end up in the environment for hundreds of years causing great harm to the environment. 

Among the various harmful effects of non-biodegradable waste, 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 that are 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 

Examples of non-biodegradable products may be: 

  • Plastics 
  • Hazardous substances
  • Pesticides
  • Fertilisers
  • E-wastes
  • Rubbers
  • Polymers
  • Shopping bags 
  • Packaging materials
  • Plastic bottles 
  • Nuclear Wastes

Why is waste generation a concern?

You might wonder why waste generation is a concern. Waste generation is a topic of augmented concern because we create massive amounts of waste. 

The world population is around 7.8 billion people and is expected to become 11 billion by the next century. An average person is linked with the generation of about 5 kgs of waste every day. Now, if we multiply 5 with 8 billion, the answer would be beyond staggering. 

That is why waste generation is an important matter. The current waste generation stands at 2 billion tons annually which may rise up to 3 billion in the coming years. 

If this waste is not managed correctly, we may end up making the whole world a huge dustbin and everyone and everything in it will become a waste then. 

That is why, there is an increased need to have biodegradable waste because in this case, there is some chance for us to survive and sustain. 

Non-biodegradable waste may remain in the environment for hundreds of years. More non-biodegradable waste simply means that there is no disposal of waste while each year 2 billion tons of waste is added incessantly. 

Is econyl biodegradable?

It is seen that for a product to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural substances. These natural substances may be: 

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

However, although econyl is made from a green thought, it still is not biodegradable because technically it is made from non-biodegradable products. 

Just like nylon, econyl will also cause the same environmental degradation when it is disposed of wrongly. It may persist for 100 to 1000 years while also causing pollution and damage to aquatic ecosystems. 

What is the environmental status of econyl?

It may be wondered what is the environmental status of econyl because the literature deliberated up to now makes the answer rather equivocal and mixed. 

On one side, econyl can be considered environmentally safe or at least, considerate because of the following factors: 

  • 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 

While these factors advocate in the favour of econyl, there are other factors that steer in the opposite direction. These include: 

  • Econyl still is non-biodegradable and may persist in the environment for up to a thousand years
  • Econyl is a source of microfibres which are tiny plastic particles that cause great harm to the habitat and life within those habitats 
  • The production process of econyl is not safe and makes use of non-renewable resources
  • The production of econyl makes use of various chemicals and dyes that are harmful to human health and the environment
  • The incorrect disposal of econyl will cause the same detrimental impacts that are caused by the disposal of non-biodegradable products 
  • The production of econyl is highly toxic because of the use of harmful chemicals and dues and puts the workers at great risk. 

What can you do?

As we have explored the positive and negative effects of econyl on the environment and human health, you may be wondering what can I do to be the most environmentally considerate.

There are some options that you can pursue to make sure that minimal damage is caused by your style of life. 

First, you must be minimal in your use of products that have harmful effects on the environment. If you are inclined to use Econyl, 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 econyl correctly. If you don’t, this econyl will cause the same detrimental impacts that are caused by conventional nylon. Proper knowledge and awareness are key here. 

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 econyl is not biodegradable because it is made from waste that is not biodegradable. Econyl is a green alternative because it is intended to reduce waste accumulation by reusing the waste. 

Econyl gives the same utilitarian aspects as conventional nylon. This implies that there is no compromise in quality here. 

However, the production of econyl is still clogged with numerous health and environmental risks such as the use of harmful chemicals or dyes, production of microfibres and non-biodegradability aspects. 

Frequently Asked Question: Is Econyl biodegradable?

What products are used to make Econyl?

Econyl is made from ocean and landfill waste, fabric scraps, industrial plastics, old carpets and ghost nets. 

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

  • Perella, M. (2016). New fabrics make recycling possible, but are they suitable for high street. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/2015/jan/22/fabric-recycling-closed-loop-process-high-street-fashion. Accessed Apr.
  • 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.
  • 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

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