Like polyester, nylon fiber is made from petroleum. Although we’ve been substituting non-recycled polyester for recycled versions for 20 years, only in the last five have we begun swapping out non-recycled nylon for its recycled replacement. For some reason locked deep in polymer chemistry, nylon is more difficult to recycle than polyester. After years of research, development, and testing, we’re finally finding some recycled nylon fibers that are suitable for apparel and can pass our rigorous tests of manufacturability and product quality.
Some of the recycled nylon we use comes from post-industrial waste fiber, yarn collected from a spinning factory, and waste from the weaving mills that can be processed into reusable nylon fiber. Another recycled nylon fiber we are experimenting with is re-created from discarded industrial fishing nets.
In 1993 we were the first outdoor clothing manufacturer to adopt fleece made from post consumer recycled (PCR) plastic soda bottles into our line. Twenty years later however, we’re still searching for a similar success story with recycled nylon. The challenge lies ahead of us, and we’re committed to discovering the best methods to recycle nylon fiber, but it appears this evolution will take many years.
In any case, incorporating as much recycled nylon as we can lessens our dependence on petroleum as a raw material source. It curbs discards, thereby prolonging landfill life and reducing toxic emissions from incinerators. It helps promote new recycling streams for nylon products that are no longer usable. And it causes less air, water, and soil contamination compared to using non-recycled nylon.