Nylon is no doubt among the most popular fabrics in the world of fashion. Its reasonable price and durability make it one of the top choices among fashion enthusiasts. However, it is normal for you to wonder: is nylon biodegradable? You will get your answer in the article.
Nylon is a non-biodegradable fabric. It is made of polymers. So, it is not a natural substance that can easily biodegrade in the environment. Moreover, manufacturers use strong chemicals in the process of making nylon. As a result, nylon would last a long time in the ecosystem.
The manufacturing process of nylon is pretty complex, as well as the recycling process.
In this article, I will discuss what makes nylon non-biodegradable, along with some other information you might find helpful.
Is Nylon Biodegradable?
Nylon is a non-biodegradable material. It’s a synthetic fiber produced by humans that will most likely remain on the planet for quite a long period of time. It is a tough material that won’t break down quickly.
Well, microorganisms can naturally break down biodegradable materials.
Nylon, on the other hand, does not fall under this category as it is not a natural substance. It is because it is formed of polymers that are a sort of plastic.
The manufacturing procedure for nylon requires the use of strong chemicals. Sadly, because of all of this, nylon is not biodegradable.
Other fabrics, like hemp and cotton, will biodegrade in a few decades or less.
Yet, polymer fabrics would last centuries in the ecosystem. If you throw away nylon in landfills, it could require up to two hundred years or more to break down completely.
Nylon has strong interchain contacts, which h-bonds within molecular chains induce. It is the main reason for nylon’s low biodegradability compared to aliphatic polyester blends.
What is Nylon Made From?
Nylon is a man-made fiber, or more specifically, a synthetic polymer. It means one must use chemicals in the production of nylon. As a result, nylon is not a natural fabric.
A 2-step manufacturing and chemical process starts with the creation of the powerful polymers that make up the fiber. The process ends with the binding of those polymers to form a lasting fiber.
Manufacturers use crude oil while producing nylon. However, they have to transform crude oil into the flexible fabric we recognize as nylon following a severe chemical process.
To get a little more scientific, nylon is a type of polymer that is created as a result of the condensation polymerization process. This reaction results in the formation of a large polymer, such as a giant nylon sheet.
The manufacturer’s initial task is to merge two pairs of molecules. Both ends of one pair have one acid group. And the other has one amine group, which is composed of basic chemical molecules.
Well, there is considerable leeway for experimentation. But adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine monomer are a popular combination. Whenever these two chemicals are together, they form thick crystalline “nylon salts.”
However, for using nylon for clothing, the procedure does not end here. The nylon sheets must then be cut into pieces, heated, and spun in a motorized spinner.
After that, the process of generating the nylon people recognize in their stockings ends. So, after a lengthy chemical process, manufacturers can produce nylon.
Environmental Impacts of Nylon
There are both pre-consumer and post-consumer negative environmental impacts of nylon. Now, let’s discuss the impacts of nylon on the environment in detail:
In terms of nylon’s pre-consumer effect, its manufacturing is inextricably connected with the petrochemical sector. And, there are so many harmful effects of the petroleum industry on the planet.
Fracking, drilling, and other techniques of petroleum extraction are wreaking havoc on ecosystems all over the world. And, nylon necessitates the use of those processes.
Well, nylon isn’t quite as demanding as other textiles. But the water it requires during the production process frequently transports contaminants into streams near industrial sites.
This is particularly alarming because it is largely occurring in nations with fewer environmental safeguards. For example, in China, Indonesia, and India. So, it makes it a major source of contamination of water supplies in those countries (and throughout the world!).
Not to mention the poisonous dyes, which have proved to be a major cause of water contamination.
Unfortunately, toxic dyes are a favorite of nylon. Also, recall how I said earlier that a chemical interaction involving diamine acid and adipic acid is required to generate nylon?
Well, the adipic acid manufacturing process emits significant volumes of nitrogen oxide into the environment.
However, you may wonder, “What’s nitrous oxide?” It is a harmful toxin known as a greenhouse gas. It is also 300 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
The post-consumer effects of nylon on the atmosphere are also alarming. Incorrect disposal of nylon-containing items mostly causes these effects. These can persist in the atmosphere for centuries, as can the microplastics released when you wash them.
Those minuscule fiber fragments contaminate sources of water. And, thus, multitudes of fish throughout the world consume them. It does not even end here.
Let’s return to the incorrect disposal of nylon-containing items. The reality that nylon may linger in the atmosphere for centuries has a severe impact not just on the ecosystem. It also severely impacts the animals that live there as well.
If it continues like this, it might erase a significant portion of aquatic life. To cut a long story short, nylon is not environmentally friendly. Period!
Impacts on Humans
Well, nylon is bad for the environment and wildlife. But is it also bad for people?
Let me explain. The long-term effects of microplastics on the bodies of humans are yet to be determined. However, it is difficult to imagine that if microplastics got into the human body via food or water, it wouldn’t be of concern.
Does nylon directly cause damage to humans? If you wear nylon clothing, will that cause any problems for your body?
It’s vital to remember that manufacturers use harmful chemical compounds such as bleaching agents as well as artificial dyes while making nylon.
And, these chemicals might still be present in synthetic textiles when they make them into clothes and sell them to consumers.
However, this largely relies on the manufacturing company of nylon fabric. An additional reason to avoid nylon is if you have particularly sensitive skin.
3 Sustainable Alternatives To Nylon
Given the major negative impacts nylon has on the environment, you might want to skip this fabric. So, here is a list of a few excellent alternatives to nylon:
1. Recycled Nylon
Using recycled nylon is a decent choice as a replacement for nylon. Recycled nylon strives to hit the reset button by using scrap nylon to make new fabric. It decreases the quantity of nylon that ends up in landfills.
Furthermore, it also reduces our dependency on crude oil, as well as other oil-based products in the production of our clothing.
The main aim of recycled nylon is to rescue discarded fishing nets from the sea and provide them with a fresh start as clothes. Recycled nylon tries to address the problem of discarded fishing nets.
So, nylon that has been recycled is considerably superior to virgin nylon. It uses fewer raw materials and deflects waste from landfills.
However, I can’t say recycled nylon is completely eco-friendly. But the negative impacts it has on the environment are far less than nylons.
Since we can’t avoid synthetic fabric or nylon altogether, it would be best if we used recycled nylon instead of virgin ones.
Econyl is one of the most common sorts of nylon alternatives we can use. And, it is one type of recycled nylon. Well, Econyl is 100 percent recyclable. Manufacturers use both pre-and post-consumer waste.
For instance, they use fishing nets, fabric scraps, old carpets, and so on to produce Econyl. The material doesn’t include any substances that are damaging to human health.
Well, many industries are looking for alternative solutions to produce plastic as critical interest in plastic pollution and the dependence on fossil fuels grows.
They are using alternatives such as sugarcane or maize starch to achieve this. Microorganisms can also produce bioplastics.
Bio-nylons, like all other bioplastics, are made without using crude oil and originate from a renewable source. However, this does not imply that they will be environmentally friendly.
These nylons, in the end, still employ virgin resources to create new fabrics. It implies that they do not solve the challenges of textile waste. But even though they are not 100% eco-friendly, they are still a better option than pure nylon fabrics.
Related post you must read
There is no denying the fact that nylon has several characteristics that make it suitable for particular applications. However, by now, you have got your answer to the question: is nylon biodegradable? So, it is not wise to ignore the negative consequences a non-biodegradable product might have on the environment.
Thanks for reading through. Hopefully, you’ve found this article helpful. All the best!