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Recycled fishing nets on Nylon Stockings Day

Today (15 May) is Nylon Stockings Day. While nylon offered a stronger alternative to silk stockings in the 1930s, here at Materia we are more interested in the nylon part than the stockings. That’s why we decided use the opportunity to talk about nylon and in particular recycled nylon made from fishing nets. Happy Nylon Stockings Day!

Nylon, a plastic fibre commonly made from oil, was the first artificial fibre developed entirely in a laboratory. Since its invention 80 years ago, the material has been used in many applications, amongst them stockings, because it has “the strength of steel and the sheerness of cobwebs”. In the late 1960s, nylon suffered a decline in use, and nowadays, nylon consists of only 12 per cent of the world’s synthetic fibres.

One of the uses for nylon is fishing nets, because it is strong and doesn’t deteriorate when exposed to salt water for long periods of time. However, many fishnets are left behind in the ocean, accidentally or on purpose, making up about 10 per cent of the plastic trash in the oceans. The discarded nets become so called ghost nets, in which fish can still get caught and die because they can’t get out (for more about plastic pollution in the ocean, click here). So fishing nets do a lot of harm, long after their former owners have forgotten about them.

Several companies are combatting the problem of ghost nets by recycling them into new materials. Aquafil is one of these companies and has developed Econyl, a yarn made from reclaimed nylon waste, such as fishing nets, spent nylon carpets, and industrial plastic waste. Econyl is available in two varieties: textile yarn and carpet yarn. For materials made from Econyl at Materia, click here.

Oceanweave by Axiom, a manufacturer of bicycle bags, is a similar product, made from reclaimed fishing nets. Another company called Bureo makes skateboards from old fishing nets.

These initiatives are of course all very admirable. Each fishing net less in the ocean is a win, after all. Unfortunately, with the price of crude oil so low, the price if virgin nylon has also dropped. This causes problems for the recycled nylon industry, as this becomes too expensive, as well as for people who make money by diving up the fishing nets. So let’s hope the trend of recycling nylon will continue in the future as well. In the meantime, enjoy your nylon stockings!