Slow fashion: Ensuring a sustainable end-of-life for clothes
Solvay’s biodegradable yarn makes polyamides decompose 10x faster
Despite reuse and recycling, at the end of the day, most garments around the world end up in landfills. A large part of those clothes are made of synthetic fibers that, like all other plastics, tend to stick around for decades, causing major pollution problems.
Additives that favor bacteria
Back in 2012, in response to these issues, Solvay’s Coatis teams in Brazil started imagining a solution that would make the polyamide yarn they manufacture for the garment industry biodegradable. The one they found? An additive that could efficiently enhance the yarn’s biodegradability. The following year, Amni® Soul Eco was launched.
“We immediately saw that this was a very interesting technology for its sustainability aspects”, says Pierre Pak, R&I Expert at Solvay’s Coatis business unit. “So we tested Amni Soul Eco®’s decomposition following biodegradability standards in an anaerobic environment, which are the typical conditions you would find in a landfill.” They observed that Amni® Soul Eco biodegrades in around five years under these conditions, compared to over 50 years for synthetics in general.
The market for Amni Soul Eco® keeps growing as our customers increasingly see the value in answering consumer demand for more sustainable textiles.
How does it work? While the chemical structure of synthetic fibers usually doesn’t allow bacterial penetration, Amni® Soul Eco’s enhanced polyamide facilitates access and digestion of waste material. But only by the type of bacteria in charge of anaerobic decomposition – so there is no risk of your garment decomposing in your closet!
The additives contained in Amni® Soul Eco accelerate the conversion of the carbon in the polymers into biogas (carbon dioxide and methane). This process can be applied to other types of plastics, but when it comes to polyamide yarns, this is a unique product on the market. What’s more, it is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Class 1 certified, guaranteeing the absence of noxious substances for human health.
A labeled sustainable solution
The trick to making the product successful was adjusting it’s formulation. Textiles require extremely thin polymer filaments, between 10 and 50 microns in diameter, and the smallest change in formulation can disrupt the spinning process. The biodegradability additive had to be precisely tailored to make sure it could still be spun into polyamide yarns.
Despite these challenges, it was completely successful. So much so that late 2020, the Solar Impulse Foundation granted Amni Soul Eco® its famed “Efficient Solution” label, distinguishing it as a product which can generate business that contributes to building a more sustainable world. “This started as a niche, premium product,” continues Pierre. “But today the market keeps growing as our customers increasingly see the value in answering consumer demand for more sustainable textiles. And the Solar Impulse label will help us market Amni® Soul Eco even more efficiently.”
Teams at Coatis are working hard to expand the usage of Amni Soul Eco® among the textile industry, by simultaneously working on decreasing its cost and expanding the product line. “Our customers can also add characteristics to the fabric such as antibacterial properties, while retaining its biodegradability aspect”, adds Pierre.
At the moment, Brazil and Europe are the main markets for Amni® Soul Eco. But with growing interest from manufacturers globally, especially in Asia, the world’s textile manufacturing hub, the sky's the limit for biodegradable nylon!