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Sustainability
 

The ECONYL® project


About ECONYL® Regeneration System

ECONYL® Regeneration System is the world's most efficient industrial system for the production of nylon 6 from 100% regenerated materials, and has been designed and realized entirely by the Aquafil Group.

ECONYL® Regeneration System is an innovative industrial regeneration system introduced by Aqualfil in 2011, in order to produce the nylon 6 polymer from:

  • post consumer waste, i.e. end-of-life products made from polyamide 6 including fishing nets, fluff (the top of carpets and rugs) and rigid textiles;
  • pre-consumer waste such as oligomers, scraps and others, generated from the production of nylon 6.

Planned and implemented entirely by Aquafil, the ECONYL® Regeneration System is based not only on the development of a new technology but also the creation of several production chains specialized in the recovery of waste collected worldwide, hitherto unknown.

The project has involved the following stages:

  • Defining an exclusive chemical/mechanical production process developed entirely by the Energy & Recycling division which enables Nylon 6 waste to be regenerated infinitely. The resulting product is a polymer with the same technical and quality characteristics of the product obtained applying traditional systems;
  • The creation of an international network for the collection of regenerable materials and a logistics chain to transport those materials to the production plants;
  • The construction of the first ECONYL® production system, which was opened in May 2011, at Aquafil's plant in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • ECONYL® Reclaiming Program

    The ECONYL® Reclaiming Program (ERP) was set up by the Aquafil Group in order to create an international network wich operates in several sectors and deals with the collection of Nylon 6 waste in order to feed the ECONYL® Regeneration System.

    Today, 70% of the waste used as a raw material at the ECONYL® plant in Ljubljana comes from industrial waste, while 30% comes from end-of-life products. Since 2013, the share of post-consumer waste will be increased, reaching the amount of 50% on the total mix. 

    To rise the efficiency of the ECONYL® project, Aquafil has set up and is continuing to build a structured international waste collection network, based on partnerships with institutions, public and private consortia, and customers.

    Thanks to this system, Aquafil can gather large quantities of materials from various countries in the world, including the United States, Egypt, Pakistan, Thailand, Norway and Turkey.

    Particularly important is the partnership with Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), a US-based consortium which reclaimed 160,000 tons of used carpet in 2009.

      

     

      

  • ECONYL® at a glance

    4 years of research, system planning and plant building
    Nearly € 20 million invested in the project
    20 researchers
    3 international universities participated in the project
    4 million tons: the amount of Nylon 6 produced globally every year, which ends up in landfill sites or incinerators at the end of its life.

    Between 2011 and 2012, 16 thousands tons of Nylon 6 waste have been collected.


    The ECONYL® Regeneration System is
    :

    • Infinite, as the waste polyamide 6 can be regenerated an infinite number of times, to produce new polymers, whose technical characteristics and quality is no different from that of the product obtained from fossil materials.
    • Innovative, as it is the only system of its kind anywhere in the world, in terms of efficiency and productivity.
    • Environmentally friendly, as it recovers waste which would otherwise end up in landfill or in the oceans (fishing nets), causing very serious damage to the entire ecosystem. It also enables real savings in terms of natural fossil resources — about 7 barrels of oil per ton of regenerated polymers produced — as no virgin caprolactam is used to produce it.
  • Benefits for the environment

    The recovery of tens of thousands of tons of waste which ends up in landfill or dumps, the saving of large amounts of natural non-renewable resources, the reduction of atmospheric emissions and the safeguarding of protected marine life. ECONYL® Regeneration System is all of this.

    ECONYL® Regeneration System enables the production of high-quality Nylon 6, while minimizing the impact on the environment, both during the production cycle and in terms of the life of the finished product.

    Considering that the reclaimed materials used in regenerated Nylon 6 completely replace the hydrocarbons utilized in the production of caprolactam, the ECONYL® Regeneration System enables an estimated saving of over 70,000 barrels of oil every year.

    More extensive use of the ECONYL® Regeneration System will also help with the selective recovery and regenerating of a large amount of waste: Every year, approximate 4,000,000 tons of Nylon 6 products are made each year. At the end of their lives, most of them end up in incinerators or landfill.
    What is particularly important for Aquafil is the establishment of an international network to recover fishing nets abandoned in the sea. According to a FAO report and the UN Environmental Program, this phenomenon is becoming more widespread and now accounts for more than 10% of all the waste found in the sea.

         

     

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  • The first ECONYL® Regeneration System Plant

    In May 2011, the first ECONYL® Recycling System was inaugurated, and a dedicated production line was built and opened at the Ljubljana plant (Slovenia). The launch of the new system marks an important turning point for the Group, as it has made the recovery and regenerating of Nylon 6 waste one of its characteristic activities, with an impact on all three of the Aquafil divisions.

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