Our Three Questions About Sustainable Nylons Answered
We we're so lucky to speak to Andreea Toca, interim creative director and sustainabilty manager of Swedish Stockings, the only sustainable hoisery brand in the world. Read all about our experience trying on the brand's line of tights here, or get educated on how sustainable hoisery works, below.
What are the specific harms of creating nylon stockings versus recycled?
Virgin nylon is a synthetic polymer (fancy word for plastic), made in a lab from petrochemicals (organic chemicals found in coal and/or oil). So virgin nylon is a product of the oil industry, which as we know is super bad for the environment, due to their extraction processes, harmful releases of greenhouse gases, limited resources, etc.
All [Swedish Stockings] recycled nylon comes from what was at one point considered nylon waste. The recycled nylon we use falls under two categories; pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste. Pre-consumer waste is waste that occurs in the supply chain before the consumer is involved (i.e. waste remnants from virgin nylon production, or sportswear scarps and cut-offs) and post-consumer waste is waste that occurs as a result of the end of life of a consumer product (i.e. ghost fishing nets, carpet fluff). So while recycled nylon does rely on virgin nylon production to an extent, what we are doing is saving "waste" from ending up in landfills and repurposing waste into a new product. We also avoid having to use virgin resources to create a new product.
Andrea mentions that it’s important to consider the waste hierarchy, available here.
Recycling is in the middle of the waste hierarchy, then comes energy recovery, incineration, and the least desirable... landfills. Of course, if something can be first reduced in consumption, then re-used or re-purposed that is much more advantageous than to recycle. We also are trying to develop hosiery that lasts longer, so that people do not have to consume as much.
Do you know how long it takes for a pair of traditional nylon stockings to biodegrade in a landfill setting?
I have seen sources that state between 30-50 years. A great resource for this is Fashion Revolution.
What is your vision for the future of hosiery as it relates to sustainability?
We have so many things we want to do and to achieve! We are working to be as closed-loop as possible. Right now no technology exists that can separate nylon from elastane, so old hosiery cannot be turned into new. We are involved in a research initiative that is investigating this separation, so we think in a few years time we will be able to fully recycle old pantyhose into new. We currently have a recycling program in place that grinds and melts down old pantyhose and uses it as filler material in fiberglass tanks. It's a great interim solution, but we need to find ways to make it more accessible for people all over the world. We are also investigating alternative recycling or repurposing options. Lastly, our mission is to change and influence the entire hosiery industry. So we want to encourage other companies to do what we do, and we want to help them do this!
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