Is Nylon 2-Nylon 6 biodegradable? (15 applications of nylon)

In this article, the biodegradability of Nylon 2-Nylon 6 will be targeted. Other aspects covered would be: 

  • What is Nylon 2-Nylon 6?
  • What is nylon?
  • What are synthetic polymers?
  • Why should nylon be biodegradable?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • What are the examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable products?
  • Is Nylon 2-Nylon 6 biodegradable?
  • Conclusion 
  • FAQs

Is Nylon 2-Nylon 6 biodegradable?

Yes, Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is biodegradable, unlike other nylon. It is a copolymer of glycine and aminocaproic acid. 

Biodegradability is defined as the degradation process that is caused by microbes such as bacteria, fungi or viruses. 

Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is an exception in regard to biodegradability because conventional nylon is a synthetic polymer which is not biodegradable. 

What is Nylon 2-Nylon 6?

Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is a copolymer that is produced from the co-polymerisation of glycine and aminocaproic acid. Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is regarded as exceptionality to conventional nylon because it is biodegradable. 

This means that Nylon 2-Nylon 6 will cause fewer problems in comparison to other synthetic polymers which are not biodegradable and may persist for hundreds of years. 

Nylon is associated with a number of commercial applications such as being used as fibres, in medical implants, in sports gear, 3d printing, and toothbrushes. 

Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is specially used to make toothbrushes, strings of musical instruments, and also in the formation of synthetic polymers. 

What is nylon? (15 applications of nylon) 

Nylon is a synthetic polymer which is synthesised in the lab by the use of various chemicals. These words must be enough to give you a cue that nylon is a potentially harmful product. 

This is because synthetic products are made at the expense of the environment. The primary reason behind this assumption is that synthetic materials are mostly made from products derived from non-renewable resources. 

A common example is synthetic plastics that are made from products derived from fossil fuels. More than that, the energy used to make these synthetic products is also non-renewable.

This means that a large amount of energy is needed to synthesise these products and make them commercially available for our facilitation. 

This is the tradeoff that has been happening more than ever since the industrialisation era. Synthetic consumer products deliver exceptional quality. However, this happens at a hidden cost and that cost is our health and our environment. 

The case of conventional nylon is no different. It also delivers exceptional qualities like mechanical strength, insulation, damping, resistance, augment wear & tear, and even fatigue resistance.

Owing to these qualities, there are a number of applications and uses of nylon that expand to multiple industries and domains. 

Some of them can be mentioned to serve as an example: 

  • 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

What are synthetic polymers?

Polymers are derived from a Greek origin which is translated into ‘many parts’. Polymers are repeating units that are bound together by chemical bonds. The repeating units that makeup polymers are called monomers. 

Therefore, it can be simply said that polymers are various monomers that are linked together by chemical bonds such as covalent bonds. 

Polymers are found everywhere around us. The plastic chair that you are sitting on or the paper book you are reading these words. The world today is thronged with polymers. The primary reason behind this is that polymers deliver an exceptional quality of function while also being budget-friendly. 

Polymers may be classified into two categories. One is natural polymers and the other is synthetic polymers. Natural polymers are present in nature. Examples may include nucleic acids, proteins, and natural fabrics. 

Whereas, synthetic polymers are synthesised in the lab by the polymerisation process. This process is done by using fossil-fuel products such as coal or petroleum. Since there is an involvement of synthetic materials in the polymerisation process, synthetic polymers are known to cause harm to life and the environment. Common examples of synthetic polymers may include:

  • PET 
  • HDPE
  • LDPE
  • Synthetic fabrics
  • Synthetic resins
  • Nylon 
  • Dyneema 
  • Epoxies

Why should Nylon be biodegradable?

You may wonder what is the importance and urgency behind the biodegradability of Nylon 2-Nylon 6. This question can be answered through many frames. Such as the issue of waste generation. 

The current waste generation stands at roughly around 2 billion tons. This means that every year, more than 2 billion tons of waste is added to the environment. 

These figures may also increase in the nearing time. It is estimated that the figure of 2 billion tons may rise up to more than 3 billion tons by as early as 2050. 

This translates to an average person being responsible for the generation of more than five kilograms of waste per day. The figures speak for themselves. 

Already, more than 40% of waste generated is not disposed of properly. On top of that, if the produced waste is not biodegradable, it will create further problems for the waste management authorities. 

Therefore, there is an increased need for materials and products to be biodegradable so that the impact and the strain caused on the environment may be reduced in the best possible ways. 

The problem is not just with waste generation. The generated and accumulated waste will also cause a plethora of problems to man and the environment. 

This is because there is an intricate amount of interconnection found within nature. This means that if there is any irregularity in one aspect, it is sure to be reciprocated in other aspects as well. 

Below are some of the common issues that are stemmed from non-biodegradable waste. The examples will let us better understand why there is a lesser need for non-biodegradable waste.

  • Pollution
  • Global warming
  • Rising sea levels
  • Melting of glaciers
  • Unseen weather anomalies
  • Floods
  • Deforestation
  • Soil erosion 
  • Droughts
  • Loss of life
  • Disruption of ecosystems 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be called the Earth’s natural system to dispose of waste. It is a process of conversion of complex waste into simpler substances so that those substances may become a part of nature again.

It can be said that biodegradability is nature’s way of ensuring that waste does not gather and accumulate but rather gets back into the system.

The reason behind this is that mother nature is aware that if there is waste generation and accumulation, then there will be a lot of negative impacts on the environment and life, in general. 

You may wonder what are the microbes that cause the process of biodegradation. Biodegradation is caused by microbes such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, algae, protozoa, and even yeast.

These microbes ensure that the waste produced is broken down into simpler substances so that it becomes a part of the system again. 

Have you ever seen a decaying animal by the side of a road? Or perhaps today you went to check your fridge and found out that the vegetables have started to de-colour and have a bad smell. 

If you have encountered anything like this, then you have seen the live process of biodegradation. 

The term biodegradation is basically derived from two words ‘bio’ and ‘degradation’. Bio means life, whereas degradation refers to the process of the breakdown so that simpler materials may be produced. 

However, biodegradation has some limitations too. It is seen that not every product is biodegradable. Some products are biodegradable whereas some products can not be broken down by the action of microbes. 

What are examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste?

Based on biodegradability, waste may be classified into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. Biodegradable waste may be degraded readily. The exact amount of time required depends more on the external conditions and the type of material.

However, it may take between a few days to several months. There is an exception in this case as well. This is because some biodegradable waste may also take up some years to degrade. 

A common example of such waste can be bioplastics which are known to take more than three years to fully degrade. Examples of biodegradable waste may be: 

  • Food waste
  • Plant waste
  • Animal waste
  • Manure
  • Sewage 
  • Crop waste
  • Waste from slaughterhouse 
  • Natural fibres

Non-biodegradable waste, on the other hand, can not be degraded by the action of microbes. It is mainly because microbes cannot break the structures of this type of waste. 

It is generally perceived that materials that are synthesised in the lab from petroleum or fossil fuels are not biodegradable. 

Synthetic polymers are regarded as the most common non-biodegradable waste. Other examples may include: 

  • Electronic waste
  • Plastics 
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • Hospital waste 
  • Synthetic resins
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Nuclear waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Chemical waste

Conclusion

It is thus concluded that the biodegradable polymer which is produced from glycine and aminocaproic acid is Nylon 2-Nylon 6. It is a biodegradable polymer which will degrade by the action of microbes. 

This means that Nylon 2-Nylon 6 will cause fewer problems in comparison to other synthetic polymers which are not biodegradable and may persist for hundreds of years. 

Nylon is associated with a number of commercial applications such as being used as fibres, in medical implants, in sports gear, 3d printing, and toothbrushes. 

Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is specially used to make toothbrushes, strings of musical instruments, and also in the formation of synthetic polymers. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is Nylon 2- Nylon 6 biodegradable?

Are all forms of nylon biodegradable?

No, all forms of nylon are not biodegradable. Nylon sources from plant-based materials such as bio-nylon and Nylon 2-Nylon 6 are biodegradable.

Is Nylon harmful to human health?

Yes, there are a number of health complications caused by Nylon which may include hormone disruption, cancer, skin allergies, and general discomfort. Nylon may also contain BPA which is a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor. 

References 

  • Burkinshaw, S. M. (1995). Nylon. In Chemical Principles of Synthetic Fibre Dyeing (pp. 77-156). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Holmes, D. R., Bunn, C. W., & Smith, D. J. (1955). The crystal structure of polycaproamide: Nylon 6. Journal of Polymer Science, 17(84), 159-177.
  • 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.
  • Gonsalves, K. E., Chen, X., & Wong, T. K. (1991). Synthesis, characterization and biodegradation test of nylon 2/6 and nylon 2/6/6. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 1(4), 643-647.
  • Arvanitoyannis, I., Nakayama, A., Kawasaki, N., & Yamamoto, N. (1994). Synthesis and properties of biodegradable copolyesteramides: Nylon 6, 6/ϵ‐caprolactone copolymers, 1. Die Angewandte Makromolekulare Chemie: Applied Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics, 222(1), 111-123.
  • Sonesson, U., Björklund, A., Carlsson, M., & Dalemo, M. (2000). Environmental and economic analysis of management systems for biodegradable waste. Resources, conservation and recycling, 28(1-2), 29-53.
  • Kind, S., Neubauer, S., Becker, J., Yamamoto, M., Völkert, M., von Abendroth, G., … & Wittmann, C. (2014). From zero to hero–production of bio-based nylon from renewable resources using engineered Corynebacterium glutamicum. Metabolic engineering, 25, 113-123.

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