We use recycled nylon made from postindustrial waste fiber and discards from weaving mills and postconsumer fishing nets.
Nylon is one of the strongest plastics we use in our products. When we need a superlightweight fabric, nylon is vital for its strength. But nylon is a petroleum-based material, and producing it has a high cost in energy and greenhouse gases. Incorporating as much recycled nylon as we can lessens our dependence on virgin petroleum as a raw material source, helps eliminate discarded material and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing. Using recycled nylon also promotes new recycling streams for nylon products that are no longer functional.
We’re making progress
To meet our goal of moving completely from using virgin content to recycled content, we need recycled nylon to continue making some of our favorite technical jackets and garments and to maintain our performance standards. We’ve found a nylon yarn made from a 50/50 blend of postconsumer and pre-consumer nylon.
The postconsumer materials come from products like plastic bottles, fishing nets, worn-out clothes or discarded carpeting that have been bought, used in the world and then trashed; these products are destined for the landfill. Pre-consumer waste material, which comes from industrial processes, includes scraps of material in a factory that would have otherwise been downcycled, downgraded or sent to a landfill. Most of the nylon we use now comes from a mechanically recycled pre-consumer source. These materials would have gone into lesser-quality goods if we hadn’t used them in our products.
Most mechanically recycled materials are melted at high temperatures; this process destroys contaminants and transforms the material into a reusable form. However, nylon melts at a much lower temperature, leaving contaminants behind. As a result, it must be thoroughly cleaned before being recycled. Good sources of clean, pure postconsumer nylon are difficult to find.
For the Spring 2021 season, 90% of the nylon fabric we used to make clothing and gear contains recycled nylon. Our use of recycled nylon fabrics this season reduced CO₂ emissions by 20% compared to virgin nylon fabrics; that amounts to more than 3.5 million pounds of CO₂ emissions avoided.
We’re using more postconsumer recycled nylon in our gear and we’re also exploring other options to replace nylon entirely, such as materials made from plant-based alternatives, that will help curb the CO₂ emissions associated with material creation.