Aquafil has been leading process and product innovation for the nylon and carpet fiber industries across the globe since 1965. While primarily manufacturing Nylon 6 fibers and polymers, Aquafil has established itself as a circular leader with its flagship product, ECONYLⓇ regenerated nylon. ECONYLⓇ nylon revolutionized the world of synthetic fibers through a closed-loop model, made from 100% waste and with the ability to be regenerated an infinite number of times. For every 10,000 tons of ECONYL® raw material, Aquafil is able to save 70,000 barrels of crude oil and avoid 65,100 tons of carbon equivalent emissions.
A core aspect of Aquafil’s business is the production of textile flooring yarns for a variety of markets on a global level, including contract, automotive and residential. As pioneers of the circular economy in this space, Aquafil has become one of the main suppliers of innovative synthetic fibers for carpet flooring around the world.
Having been in the industry for more than 50 years, Aquafil recognizes the devastating effects of carpet production and waste on the environment. According to Mordor Intelligence’s 2020 report, about 3 billion m2 of floor coverings are produced in Europe every year, 34% of which are carpets. Of the carpets produced in Europe, most are made of synthetic fibers with 66% made of nylon. Creating nylon requires the extraction of oil and large amounts of energy and water. Conventional nylon is not biodegradable, so when 1.6 million tons of used carpet are added to European landfills every year, they remain for decades.
While Aquafil is tackling the issue of carpet waste through its ECONYLⓇ regenerated nylon and advocacy for strong carpet recycling legislation, the group understands the need to work alongside like-minded partners to create true change. In fact, part of Aquafil’s brand manifesto is that “we step out of our comfort zone to set new standards through empathy and collaboration, inside and outside.” Aquafil is proud to partner with the CISUFLO project to push the EU’s flooring sector to a circular economy.
Aquafil is one of the pioneers in carpet recycling, having significantly invested in research and development to create the innovative technology used to chemically recycle and regenerate nylon-based carpets. The ECONYLⓇ Regeneration Process, which was developed in 2011, allows Aquafil to fully recover nylon at the same quality and performance level of new nylon through a distillation process that removes all colors and impurities.
As an industry partner for the CISUFLO project, Aquafil’s primary objective is to support the creation of a closed-loop model applied to the carpet industry through sharing its vast knowledge and expertise with chemically recycling carpets. The group’s role is to exploit the chemical recycling systems to create circularity in the carpet industry, as it’s one of the few technologies that could support this goal on the full industrial scale.
Most carpets have a complex construction with different chemical makeups, making it difficult and expensive to separate and recycle the various parts. However with minor modifications in the construction of carpets, material separation is possible and more economic. Currently, Aquafil’s carpet recycling process primarily works for tufted wall-to-wall carpets. The group is taking the lead on investigating new technologies and design techniques to be able to dismantle and recycle additional types of carpet constructions, like carpet tiles, rubber mats and automotive carpets. Aquafil believes that by sharing information on carpet shredding technology with the partners of CISUFLO, as well as the issues and contaminations that make Nylon 6 chemical recycling difficult, it can guide carpet manufacturers toward a recyclable carpet through EcoDesign, as requested by the EU Commission.
In summary, Aquafil’s role and main tasks are:
- Supporting all partners in the evaluation of the quality of the PA6 separation for chemical (up-)cycling.
- Contributing to the definition of a circular carpet through know-how shearing for PA6 chemical recycling.
- Supporting the evolution towards a better PA6 CFC EcoDesign (to make CFC technically possible or technologically easier and/or economically more sustainable), through the identification of different materials (e.g. different fillers) or new components (e.g. new tufting primary), evaluated through dedicated tests.
- Contributing to preindustrial circular carpet realization and recycling.
Aquafil has continuously sought and advocated for innovative processes and products in its mission of achieving a circular economy. The group recently participated in the Carpet Recycling UK Annual Conference in June, presenting on the opportunity to recycle carpets while showcasing Aquafil’s own efforts through its chemical recycling process. Aquafil is proud to partner with CISUFLO and feels tremendous hope for the future of the carpet industry.