Is Nylon 66 biodegradable? (9 steps of nylon manufacturing)

This blog will explain the biodegradability status of nylon 66. Other covered aspects will be: 

  • What is nylon 66?
  • How is nylon manufactured?
  • What is the environmental impact of nylon 66?
  • What is biodegradation?
  • Is nylon 66 biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Is Nylon 66 biodegradable?

Nylon 66 is a type of synthetic material and hence not biodegradable. Nylon 66 accounts for about 10% of oceanic waste, most of which is plastic. Therefore, it is recommended that nylon 66 must be recycled.

Recycling is a process of reusing materials instead of disposing of them. Recycling is regarded as one of the best solutions for non-biodegradable waste. It also offers a number of other advantages as well such as better waste and resource management. 

Nylon 66 is mostly used in the textile and plastic industries. There are two most commonly used nylon. One is nylon 6 and the other is nylon 66. 

Nylon 6 is made up of one monomer that has six carbon atoms, whereas nylon 66 is made up of two monomers. Each monomer has six carbon atoms. Hence, the total number of carbon atoms in the latter is 12. 

What is nylon 66?

Nylon 66 is a type of nylon. There are two types of nylon that are mostly used in the textile and plastic industries. 

One is nylon 6 and the other is nylon 66. You may wonder what is the difference between the two. Well, the difference is in chemistry. 

Nylon 6 is made up of one monomer that has six carbon atoms, whereas nylon 66 is made up of two monomers. Each monomer has six carbon atoms. Hence, the total number of carbon atoms in the latter is 12. 

Nylon is the fabric which is used in our daily life in different forms. Due to nylon’s elasticity and durability, it is used in the fashion world and also for other purposes such as in parachutes, tents, car parts, packaging, and carpets manufacturing. 

But on the other hand, nylon contributes to greenhouse gas production and natural resource depletion. As nylon consumes intensive energy as compared to cotton production.  

Nylon is a synthetic fibre which is entirely man-made. It was invented and got recognition during World War II and was used for military products such as tents, parachutes, ropes and tyres. Then, nylon replaced almost all products that were made of silk. 

How is nylon manufactured? (9 steps) 

This section will shed some light on the manufacturing aspect of nylon. Nylon is a manmade fabric which involves chemicals in the manufacturing of the fabric.

The process begins with the creation of polymers that make a fibre, those polymers bind up together to make a long-lasting fibre. Crude oil is involved in the manufacturing of nylon to produce flexible fabric.

Moreover, the manufacturing of nylon involves an intensive amount of energy and chemicals. During its washing, microfibres are released which end up in oceans and waterways. Following are the steps that are involved in the manufacturing of nylon.

The production of nylon may be segregated into the following key steps:

  • Polycondensation
  • Chipping
  • Melting
  • Spinning
  • Twisting
  • Texturing
  • Crimping
  • Cutting
  • Pressing

All these steps are slightly detailed below: 

  • Polycondensation

 Before polycondensation, polymers go through Melter, mixing tank, filter and autoclave. Caprolactam and acetic acid are used to produce nylon polymers under chemical processes. 

  • Chipping

The polymerization process produces nylon rope which cuts into chips in the chipping stage. 

  • Melting

The obtained chips are melted to the required viscosity which is suitable for pumping during the spinning process. 

  • Spinning

At this stage, melted nylon polymers are cooled down by blown air which solidifies the viscous material and forms a nylon filament. 

  • Drawing and Twisting

The produced nylon is stretched and given a twist which is later wound on the bobbin.

  • Texturing

Here, the yarn is heated and crimped. The later filament is cooled down and texture is obtained in the form of nylon yarn. 

  • Drawing and Crimping 

During this process, the filament is collected from spinnerets and formed in the shape of a sheet. The sheet is crimped and stretched to achieve the required fineness. 

  • Cutting and Pressing

The obtained filaments are passed through a cutting machine which cuts fibre into wool fibre length. The product is pressed in bales with a polyethene cover. 

During the manufacturing process adipic acid, hexamethylene diamine and water are added to the vessel to form a nylon salt solution. The solution is evaporated which removes water from the salt to form a salt solution. 

A slurry of titanium dioxide and water is formed which is used to deluster fibre and it is added to nylon salt. Now polymerization occurs which forms nylon In the reactor. Here nylon is extruded through pelletization. 

What is the environmental impact of nylon 66?

Nylon has both post-consumer and pre-consumer negative impacts on the environment. 

Pre-Consumer 

The manufacturing of nylon involves the use of chemicals which are related to the photochemical sector. It consumes a lot of water which intrudes with chemicals and enters in the water streams. 

As colours are also used in the process, which ultimately enter the water streams and cause toxic pollution impacts. 

The manufacturing of adipic acid involves the release of nitrogen gas which is a harmful gas also known as a greenhouse gas. The water released from nylon manufacturing is toxic which creates water pollution impacts on the environment in water streams near industrial areas. 

China, Indonesia and India are already on the list of such water pollution impacts. 

Post-Consumer Impacts

As nylon has pre-consumer impacts, it also has alarming post-consumer impacts. Nylon products are disposed of in the environment openly, as nylon is made of microplastics, these microplastics persist in the environment for centuries. 

These microfilaments enter in the water streams and ultimately enter the food cycle of aquatic life. All around the world, aquatic life is exposed to microplastics which cause deleterious impacts on the species and lower the population by causing the death of species. 

If the disposal of nylon continues in this way, a huge portion of aquatic life will be at an alarming stage. It can be concluded that nylon is not environmentally safe, from its production to its disposal. 

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradability can be defined as a process of breakdown of waste into simpler materials so that waste may not accumulate. 

There are multiple drivers of biodegradability. The major driver of biodegradability is microbes. These may include viruses, fungi, algae, bacteria, and decomposers. 

Other facilitators of biodegradability include:

  • Aeration 
  • Sunlight 
  • Temperature
  • Pressure 

The process of biodegradation may occur in some steps. The steps involved in the biodegradation process include: 

  • Biodeterioration
  • Bio-fragmentation
  • Assimilation
  • Mineralisation 

The process of biodegradability is important because it results in the negation of waste accumulation and generation. If that does not happen, there will be negative effects on the environment and life. 

Biodegradable waste is the type of waste which can be degraded by the action of microbes and enzymes over a short period of time. Regarding this type, there is a general rule of thumb that biodegradable waste is mostly sourced from natural sources. 

Examples of biodegradable waste include plant waste, animal waste, sewage, manure, waste from slaughterhouses et cetera. 

Next, we have non-biodegradable waste. This type of waste is mostly sourced from non-natural sources such as the products of fossil fuels. This type of waste won’t degrade readily by the action of microbes. 

It is claimed that this type of waste may require even a thousand years to degrade. Therefore, it will lead to waste accumulation and negative impacts. Because of this, non-biodegradable waste is of more significant concern to environmentalists as compared to biodegradable waste. 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste include synthetic plastics, synthetic fibres, epoxies, hazardous waste, nuclear waste, electronic waste et cetera. 

Is nylon 66 biodegradable?

This section will cover the main question which is whether nylon 66 is biodegradable or not. It has been discussed that the general trend regarding biodegradability is that natural materials are biodegradable, whereas non-natural materials are not biodegradable. 

It is therefore postulated that nylon 66 is a type of synthetic material and hence not biodegradable. Therefore, it accounts for plastic pollution as well. 

It is claimed that nylon contributes to about 10% of oceanic waste, most of which is plastic. Therefore, it is recommended that nylon 66 must be recycled. 

Recycling is a process of reusing materials instead of disposing of them. Recycling is regarded as one of the best solutions for non-biodegradable waste. It also offers a number of other advantages as well such as: 

  • Resource management
  • Waste management 
  • Decreased use of raw materials 
  • Decreased use of energy 
  • Better employment perspectives 

Conclusion

It is concluded that nylon 66 is a type of synthetic material and hence not biodegradable. Nylon 66 accounts for about 10% of oceanic waste, most of which is plastic. Therefore, it is recommended that nylon 66 must be recycled.

Recycling is a process of reusing materials instead of disposing of them. Recycling is regarded as one of the best solutions for non-biodegradable waste. It also offers a number of other advantages as well such as better waste and resource management. 

Nylon 66 is mostly used in the textile and plastic industries. There are two most commonly used nylon. One is nylon 6 and the other is nylon 66. 

Nylon 6 is made up of one monomer that has six carbon atoms, whereas nylon 66 is made up of two monomers. Each monomer has six carbon atoms. Hence, the total number of carbon atoms in the latter is 12. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is Nylon 66 biodegradable?

Are all types of nylon non-biodegradable?

No, nylon2-nylon 6, bio nylon, and econyl are regarded as green alternatives to nylon. Out of these, the first two are biodegradable. 

When was nylon invented?

Nylon 66 was invented in 1930 by Wallace Corothers. 

References

  • Burkinshaw, S. M. (1995). Nylon. In Chemical Principles of Synthetic Fibre Dyeing (pp. 77-156). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Chavarria, F., & Paul, D. R. (2004). Comparison of nanocomposites based on nylon 6 and nylon 66. Polymer, 45(25), 8501-8515.
  • Senthilvelan, S., & Gnanamoorthy, R. (2006). Selective carbon fiber reinforced nylon 66 spur gears: development and performance. Applied Composite Materials, 13(1), 43-56.
  • Negoro, S. (2000). Biodegradation of nylon oligomers. Applied microbiology & biotechnology, 54(4).
  • Shimao, M. (2001). Biodegradation of plastics. Current opinion in biotechnology, 12(3), 242-247.

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