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Material Snapshot

Recycled Nylon 6

Material Scenario
Undyed recycled nylon 6 woven textile. General process for chemical depolymerization of waste nylon
6 materials, primarily carpet, for secondary caprolactam and nylon 6 fiber production. Major unit
processes include collection of post-consumer waste, sorting, shredding, depolymerization, distilling,
melt-extrusion, yarn spinning and textile construction. Data used in this report come from various
sources and the scenario is not geographically specific.

Common Uses In Apparel And Footwear
Due to the fact that recycled nylon 6 is produced from virgin quality caprolactam, it can share many
of the same uses as virgin nylon. The manufacturers of EcoNyl have used recycled nylon from fishing
nets in apparel including socks, swimwear and underwear (Ditty, 2013).

Alternative Textiles That May Be Substituted For Material
• Virgin nylon 6 • Virgin nylon 6,6 • Mechanically recycled nylon 6 • (Refer to virgin nylon 6
snapshot for other substitutes)

Life Cycle Description
Functional Unit
1 kilogram of chemically recycled, undyed nylon 6 fabric

System Boundary
Cradle to undyed woven fabric. The data presented within include all steps required to turn the postconsumer material into woven fabric, including transportation and energy inputs. Capital equipment,
space conditioning, support personnel requirements, and miscellaneous materials comprising <1% by
weight of net process inputs are excluded. Incineration of waste materials is not included in this study.

Allocation
Cut-off approach. The “first life” of the product (e.g. as carpet) is considered entirely separate from the
“second life” (e.g. as a shirt), thus any environmental impacts of producing the waste material used to
produce the recycled nylon are allocated entirely to the waste material.

© 2016

Processors typically choose a method that results in a specified level of output quality for a given waste nylon source. 230). and recycled into new nylon materials. 476. lubricant preparations and various fillers (Dmitrieva. 1999. 617-618. n.. Dmitrieva. 471. Pellets are packaged and shipped to customers that use mechanical means such as injection molding or extrusion to form a wide variety of nylon products. etc. the recovered caprolactam may be distilled in the presence of an aqueous alkali at a temperature of 100-150oC (Dmitrieva.6 is often mechanically recycled. pp. 1991.g.. “Recycling Nylon Carpet–Melt Processing”). nylon 12. 1997. 1986.g. nylon 11. shredding it into small pieces. “Reclamation & Recycling”). n. p. n. 1458).d.d. The aqueous solution of caprolactam can be contaminated with additives used in the original product. Rather. p. 1 Mechanical processing generally includes a melting process and the terms are used interchangeably. 38-39). pp. 238). 2012). processed. mechanically recycled nylon generally results in a reduction in functional and performance properties (Lozano-González. Even when segregated.10. To remove impurities. Filaments are formed (whether directly from shredded nylon or from pellets) by extruding the melt through a spinnerette and drawing. pp. nylon 6. Carpets that are shredded and melted without segregating the nylon from the backing material generally require a variety of additives to enhance compatibility of the mixed polymers. 1997. pp. A significant barrier to efficient collection and recycling is the diversity of nylon materials – e. 47). EOS. fishing nets (Coplare.6 waste carpet. The reactor is maintained as a nitrogen-free environment. carpet).. densifying the shredded material to increase uniformity. 2006. 2000). p. p. 616). 1986. Similar to mechanical recycling.. p. or phosphoric acid and its salts are used to increase caprolactam yields. melting the material and extruding the melted material to either form pellets or filaments. metal oxides. Dmitrieva. and various methods of depolymerization followed by repolymerization (Wang. 2010. 1997. Due to its relatively high value compared with other polymers and because it easily oxidizes in storage resulting in gels when melt processed (Datye. Nylon 6. such as dyes. and textiles (pre. et al. 2006. shredding.. Mechanical processing1 involves cleaning the collected raw recyclate. metallic sodium. these materials are typically obtained through relationships with waste generators or takeback programs such as Interface’s ReEntry program (Interface. p. Relatively clean nylon can be depolymerized to provide inputs to polymerization of virgin quality nylon. 2. p..d.2 Unit Process Descriptions Raw Material Sourcing A wide range of nylon waste is generated that can be collected. None of these materials are collected via multi-material residential curbside collection programs. 1986. 2-5). The separated nylon 6 is then batch processed in a depolymerization reactor. Consequently. with additional waste from virgin nylon production (Gupta and Kothari. “Nylon Carpet Recycling– Depolymerization”).d. n. 139) at elevated pressure (410-450 kPa) and temperature (250-340oC) (Braun. nylon 6.. p. 2010. et al.. whereas nylon 6 is commonly chemically recycled and can easily be processed back into the same products from which the original recovered nylon originated (Zeftron. Nylon collection and recycling is most cost efficient when there are large volumes of relatively homogenous waste material (e.and post-consumer). collection and recycling is mostly nylon 6 and nylon 6. conversely nylon with some contamination can be melt processed into lower quality nylon (Mihut et al. © 2016 . pp. and winding the resulting fibers that can then be processed further into yarn (EOS. 234). “Carpet to Carpet Recycling”). 617-618). 231) to produce an aqueous solution of 10-50% caprolactam (Gupta and Kothari. and separation using density techniques of the face fiber (the nylon 6) from the backing (synthetic polymers and/or bio-based materials) (Lu. nylon 6 is a good candidate for chemical recycling via depolymerization (Wang. 1986. while the nylon 6 is treated with superheated steam (Wang. Processing Alternative methods for recycling waste nylon materials and products include mechanical extraction (also called melt processing). Catalysts such as an alkali (sodium hydroxide). nylon 6. although they result in differing levels of purity (Gupta and Kothari. carpets go through a process of sorting to determine polymer type. 2001.6. twisting. p.

distilling. © 2016 .022 L/MJ) leading to an estimated 5 L of water per kg of woven textile for the 229 MJ/kg associated with weaving greige textile (Appendix Table B). 2014. the higher draw ratios are for technical industrial applications and the lower ratios (200-250%) are for apparel (Bunsell. p. 203). Water Process water is used throughout the cradle to gate recycled nylon life cycle. Duch and Allgeier 2007). heated in a steam conditioning process. et al. the resulting nylon 6 is extruded through a spinneret typically comprised of 0. and heat setting to create the final yarn. filaments are subject to twisting. Depolymerization and repolymerization processes. 3 As nylon 6 recycling via depolymerization produces virgin quality product. or oxidizing agents (Gupta and Kothari. water use is embedded in electricity production (approximately 0. p. and treated with a spin finish before they are wound up (Bunsell. impurities may be removed via other methods such as solvent extraction. grinding. 355) as having the highest impact for polymer fibers when yarns are thin (<70 decitex). pp. Of this total. pp. the yarn is then wound on spinning machines and finally re-wound on bobbins to create the final product (Akovali. cleaning). but has not been scaled to industrial operations. Process Inputs Energy Energy is necessary for collection of post-consumer waste (including transport. 13).3 Total cradle to gate recycled nylon energy is 401 MJ/kg. Lab depolymerization of nylon 6. 2012. texturing. membrane separation. filament production.6 can be depolymerized. solidified with water in a quench zone. Cradle to gate production of 1 kg of recycled nylon yarn requires 172 MJ2 (EcoNyl. Textile/ Final Processes Recycled nylon yarn which has been previously wound and spun can be woven into a variety of textiles. 49-50). Direct use of water weaving is minimal (unless water jet weaving is used). 2011. The fibers are drawn to extend their length. pp. 2014. collection is 18. p. they calculated that weaving undyed greige textile (70 decitex) requires 229 MJ (van der Velden. There are many levels of heat setting to increase the thermodynamic definition to the morphology throughout the yarn manufacturing process (Bunsell . adsorbants.5 L/kg recycled nylon yarn (EcoNyl. (2014. 2 All reported EcoNyl inputs and outputs data are an average of two EcoNyl products. p. While the fibers may be drawn to between 200%-500% of the original length.6 Material Snapshot). While nylon 6. 13). sorting. weaving recycled nylon 6 is assumed to be equivalent to virgin nylon 6. 2011. yarn spinning) and textile construction. 133-134). However. FDY Raw White and Textured Yarn Raw White (EcoNyl. steam treatment and post depolymerization purification of caprolactam.3 Alternatively. 2009. Weaving was identified by van der Velden. 2011. it is not commercially viable due to the nylon 6. 2011). Cradle to yarn water use is 84 L/kg. 351-352). 201-202). After drawing.4mm diameter holes (Mather & Wardman. melt-extrusion. The emerging filaments are then extended in jets once they emerge from the spinneret. particularly in cleaning the collected waste. shredding.2009.6 by several routes has been demonstrated (Patil and Madhamshettiwar. 2011). Finally. p. and improve crystallization to obtain desired properties. p. The resulting pure caprolactam is repolymerized into nylon 6 in the same fashion as virgin nylon 6 (see the Nylon 6 Material Snapshot).6 polymer being derived from two intermediate raw materials: adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine (HMDA) (see the Nylon 6. orient the polymer molecules.1-0.5 L/kg recycled nylon yarn and processing is 65. Whether following directly from polymerization or from melting of pellets. and yarn spinning rather than waste collection and transportation are the major energy using processes (EcoNyl. processing (depolymerization. 2009 pp. 204). 13).

48. a pot residue is formed on the sides of the reactor. boric acid. All unusable by-products produced from this process are typically burned in an incinerator and the resulting ash is utilized as a filler in various plastic products (Mihut. and heat stabilizers (Datye 1991. p. p. stabilizers etc. Solid Waste During the sorting and shredding of input post-consumer products such as carpet. 15). Caprolactam can be extracted from the pot residue through distillation of water or sulfuric acid (Dmitrieva. 1458). 48). The filtrate from this process can also be reapplied in the depolymerization stage of processing (Dmitrieva. This waste can include titanium oxide.4 Chemical Chemical use in collection is limited with occasional use of detergents when cleaning post-consumer waste. p. 2001. p. sodium hydroxide. 1986. © 2016 . these are also incinerated for energy recovery (Mihut. 2001.7 kg/kg of recycled nylon yarn (EcoNyl. Cradle to gate recycled nylon textile waste is 1. and nylon production waste. 1986. 1986. Because the primary feedstock of the process is post-consumer material. The chemistry necessary for polymerization is described in the Nylon 6 Material Snapshot.9 kg/kg of woven textile. 1991. p.469). Dmitrieva. p. Caprolactam purification may be done with solvents such as toluene or other hydrocarbons. Nonhazardous solid waste generation averaged 0. p. Physical The primary inputs are post-consumer recycled products containing nylon such as carpets fishnets. 2001. After depolymerization. p. nylon textiles. 232).461). 15). and metal oxides (Datye.6) is separated from the backing. the land required to produce recycled caprolactam is relatively low.6 kg/kg. Land-use Intensity The use of post-consumer nylon products reduces the amount of landfill disposal of carpet and pollution of used fishing nets in the ocean. p. Weaving waste associated with electricity use is 0. metallic sodium. 2011. p. 1. which contains caprolactam and the remains of the catalyst used (Dmitrieva. Processing requires a range of chemicals depending on the particular depolymerization process method. antioxidants. 47). titanium oxide. 232). These wastes include hazardous impurities removed from the materials in the depolymerization process as well as hazardous wastes generated in purifying caprolactam and repolymerization. p. where available. antioxidants. the face fiber (nylon 6 or 6. 1.2 kg/kg (EcoNyl. Additional substances used in yarn and weaving processes include spin finishes. inorganic salts. 232). a significant amount of non-volatile waste and by-products remain in the reactor. (Datye. phosphoric acid. sulfuric acid. some of which may be recycled. 1986. Process Outputs Co-products & By-products After depolymerization. 233). tarry products of side reactions. while the remaining solid waste requires disposal (landfill or incineration for energy recovery). Substances may include aqueous alkalis. Land use is limited to manufacturing facilities. p. 1991. Nylon fibers account for about half of the weight of the post-consumer carpet (Mihut. 2011. Hazardous Waste/Toxicity Hazardous waste generation for recycled nylon 6 yarn is approximately 0. coning oils.

6 18.7 i 0. 1995).6 1. 14). Cradle to gate recycled nylon textile is 18. p. Weaving is 10. Emissions The collection and delivery of nylon waste to processors is a minor contributor to emissions EcoNyl. and metal oxides. Inputs And Outputs For 1 Kg Nylon 6 Cradle to recycled nylon yarn/ melt spun Recycled nylon yarn to fabric/ undyed textile Cradle to unfinished textile gate Energy (MJ) 172 i 229 ii 401 Water (L) 84 i 5 iii 89 Waste (kg) GHG emissions (kg CO2 eq. 14)./kg recycled nylon yarn. Wastewater generated from the polymerization process or thermoplastic processing may be further purified to obtain pure caprolactam (Losier et al 1995). p.. 7 Table 2.1 1.g. 2011. toluene) Wastewater The production of 1 kg of recycled nylon yarn results in 0. sulfuric acid. phosphoric acid. sodium hydroxide.5 © 2016 .6 18. p.6 kg CO2 eq. 2005. metallic sodium.5 Toxic substances in the processing of recovered nylon 6 wastes include the chemicals used in depolymerization (aqueous alkalis..730 Waste (kg) 1. 14. 2011. 351 Fig.7 ii 1. 13./kg recycled nylon yarn (EcoNyl.) as well as the hydrocarbon solvents that may be used for caprolactam purification (e. 100 yr) 18. 2014. p./kg (Appendix Table D).6 Energy (MJ) 401 388 399 Water (L) 89 1.7 kg CO2 eq.9 i 10. This wastewater contains 1-20% of solids of which 1-70% by weight is represented by caprolactam that can be catalytically cracked using aluminum oxide to obtain a more pure.8 kg CO2 eq.8 GHG emissions (kg CO2 eq. p.9 iii 7. p. etc. 2011.eq. Table 1.6 References i EcoNyl 2011. boric acid.8 18. 15 ii van der Velden et al. Global warming potential is 7. 13. 10 iii Calculations based on energy data from van der Velden et al (2014) and water values for electricity generation from Boustead. 100 yr) 0.005 kg PO43. 14). of eutrophication potential (substances that contribute to the exhaustion of oxygen in receiving waters) (EcoNyl. Comparison Of Inputs And Outputs For 1 Kilogram Nylon Cradle to Unfinished Textile Gate Recycled Nylon 6 Cradle to Unfinished Textile Gate Virgin Nylon 6 Cradle to Unfinished Textile Gate Virgin Nylon 6.653 2. concentrated caprolactam (Losier et al.

04 i Water retention (%) 1. p. which when repolymerized. nylon fibers may have lower fiber strength (Mihut. p. post-consumer feedstock can have any variation of molecular weight and chemical contamination without ruining the output caprolactam (Wang. 2001. p. p. creates nylon 6 equivalent to virgin quality nylon (Mihut. 1986. 135 ii Kipp. 232). where comparatively. Similarly. Studies have shown that it is possible to obtain reproducible caprolactam yields from the depolymerization of shredded carpet of up to 85% (Elam et al. Mechanical Attributes Of Recycled Nylon 6 Fiber Properties Nylon 6 Recycled Nylon 6 iii Melting temp (oC) 225 i 220 iv Tenacity (g/d) 7. 139).62 ii Young’s Modulus (kg/cm²) 56. 7 PlasticsEurope. 6 Ibid. 994). 1460). iv BASF. a concentration of 15% NaOH will only yield 75% output caprolactam (Dmitrieva. 4 Akovali. 2010. 2014 p 9 Akovali.5 i 80 iv 1.6 iv References i Akovali. if sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is being utilized as the catalyst. p. 2015 Mechanical Attributes The depolymerization process produces caprolactam. data shown are for a chemically recycled nylon 6 for injection molding applications.6 Performance And Processing Functional Attributes And Performance • • • • • • Abrasion resistant 4 Excellent Tenacity 5 Low moisture absorbency 6 Durable 7 Elastic 8 Resistant to many chemicals 9 Table 3. p. 2012 p135 © 2016 . 2001 p. For example. 230). 1463). 1986. 1986. Depending on the types of catalysts used in the depolymerization process. the yield will increase as temperature increases from 230-250oC and decreases thereafter (Dmitrieva. 2010. The quality of secondary caprolactam is improved when the temperature of depolymerization is reduced. During the depolyermization process. pp. 123. 139). p. 230). 230). the yield of caprolactam is directly proportional to the amount of added catalyst (Dmitrieva. 2012 p135 5 Ibid. p. 231).2 i Tensile Strain (%) 44 iv Tensile Strength (kg/cm²) 57 . p. 1997. however a reduction of temperature also lowers the yield of caprolactam from waste (Dmitrieva. the yield of pure usable caprolactam is a function of the catalyst concentration and the temperature (Dmitrieva. The caprolactam obtained through the depolymerization process is similar to virgin caprolactam in purity (Wang. Processing Characteristics When using chemical depolyermization. 2004. 1986. Nylon 6 chart iii A review of the literature did not identify any data on the mechanical attributes of chemically recycled nylon 6 formulated for textile applications. 2014 p 8 PlasticsEurope. 2010. 1986.. a concentration of 1% can yield 90% pure caprolactam. When using phosphoric acid as a catalyst.

Prices for recycled nylon tend to be lower or on par with virgin nylon and fluctuate in conjunction with demand and imports (Resource Recycling.79-0. 2014.wpengine. the fiber strength of resulting recycled nylon 6 will be reduced (Dmitrieva. or by companies that collect post-consumer carpet directly following the consumer use phase. section 9). p. Around 50% of the recycled content in EcoNyl is from recycled post-consumer carpets and fishing nets. p. post-industrial nylon 6 pellets cost between $0. p. Because of this. p. 2010. In general. Availability Of Material The rate of disposal of carpet ranges from 2-3 million tons per year in the U..interface.com/wpcontent/uploads/2016/01/TE-Recycled-Claim-Standard-v1. 137).pdf). Currently.EcoNyl. 69).7 The quality of recycled caprolactam can also vary depending on the various additives used in the original consumer product. p.com). 219). 2014. 121). Interface has established a post-consumer nylon recycling organization that gathers postconsumer carpets and nylon fishing nets to use in recycled nylon products (http://www. Aquafil is a supplier based in northern Italy with a depolymerization facility in Slovenia that produces 100% recycled nylon under the brand name EcoNyl (http://www. 139). © 2016 . the recycled caprolactam can be polymerized into nylon 6 that can be reused for equivalent applications as virgin (USDOE.S.pdf) and the Textile Exchange Recycled Claim Standard is also available (http://textileexch. if ferric ions are contained in the caprolactam. 235). 1986. the majority of products produced from recycled nylon 6 have similar qualities to those produced with virgin nylon 6. nylon 6 products have good retention of appearance and can be developed in a wide range of colors (Bunsell. Aesthetics The caprolactam obtained through the depolymerization process is similar to virgin caprolactam in purity (Wang. p.com/docs/SCS_STN_RecycledContent_V4-1_121809. though it does wrinkle. There is a potential for spills or accidents associated with the use of these chemicals in processing plants. If impurities are well controlled. The fabrics created from filament yarn are smooth. However. Cost Of Textile Reprocessed post-consumer nylon pellets cost around $0. p. 2001). 2010. 2010. 1). Carpet feedstock can be collected from landfills. et al 1998. p. soft and lustrous (Hegde. p. Potential Social And Ethical Concerns Recycling of nylon 6 avoids the use of benzene and other toxic chemicals required to produce virgin caprolactam. For example.40 per lb over a decade ago (Lave. 60% is comprised of nylon fibers that are available for recycling (Wang. There is the potential for producing an estimated 34 million kg of post-consumer recycled nylon 6 annually according to Lu (2010. Of this carpet. Availability Of Material Nylon specific recycling certifications do not exist. Scientific Certification Systems has a recycled content certification (http://scscertified. 2009. 137). Its properties are similar to polyester. and 4-6 million tons per year throughout the world (Wang.81 per pound (Resource Recycling. several chemicals in the recycling process are toxic. 2004. 1).com/ CA/en-CA/about?topic=Recycling). including the use of sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid.

8 Questions To Ask When Sourcing This Material Q: Is the recycled nylon mechanically or chemically recycled? For chemically recycled nylon 6 material: Q: How are by-products and wastes managed from the depolymerization and caprolactam purification processes? Q: Is the nylon 6 polymerized from 100% recycled caprolactam? Q: Are ferric ions found in the post-consumer nylon product? © 2016 .

System Diagram Of Chemically Recycled Nylon 6 Transportation Post-consumer Nylon Post-consumer Nylon Collection Feedstock Sorting Mechanical Shredding Solid Waste Depolymerization Pot Residue Contaminants From Carpet Aqueous Solution Aqueous Alkali Distillation & Purification Excess Caprolactam Energy Nylon 6 Polymerization Greenhouse Gas Emissions Steam Catalyst e. Phosphoric Acid Transportation Water Transportation Melt Spinning Fuel-related Emissions Solidifying Drawing Fuel-related Emissions Winding Transportation Heat Setting Fuel-related Emissions Process Flow Inputs Weaving Outputs 1 kg Undyed Recycled Nylon 6 © 2016 .9 Figure 1.g.

6 Weaving water use Weaving energy ii Water use per MJ factor from electricity production iii References i EcoNyl. p. 2005.0 Textured yarn raw white (MJ) 170. 351 iii Plastics Europe .0 Cradle to Gate Undyed Textile Total L/kg 89.0 Notes/ References i All values related to EcoNyl yarn include carpet collection and grinding. 2011. re-polymerization. Energy For Recycled Nylon 6 Energy EcoNyl Yarn i FDY raw white (MJ) Cradle to yarn ii 174.004 Calculated waste kg/kg 0. p. 2014.0 Average (MJ) 172. 7 Table C. p. 2014.022 Calculated water use L/kg 5. 2011. p. depolymerization. p. Waste For Recycled Nylon 6 Weaving waste use Weaving energy ii Waste per MJ factor from electricity production iii References i EcoNyl.9 Cradle to Gate Undyed Textile Total kg/kg 1. 15 ii van der Velden. 351 Table B. 13 ii van der Velden.7 MJ/kg 229 kg/MJ 0.10 Appendix Calculations For Acrylic Table A. 7 © 2016 .0 Weaving (70 dtex) iii 229. p. 13 iv van der Velden. and texturizing/wrapping ii EcoNyl.0 Waste Unit Quantity Cradle to yarn waste (average of EcoNyl yarns) i kg 0. p.0 Cradle to Gate Undyed Textile Total 401. p. 2011. 351 iii Plastics Europe . 2005. Water For Recycled Nylon 6 Water Unit Quantity Cradle to yarn water use (average of EcoNyl yarns) i L 84 MJ/kg 229 L/MJ 0. spinning.

7 18. p.4 0. 2014. GWP For Recycled Nylon 6 GWP Cradle to yarn from fossil fuels i Cradle to yarn from bio sources Weaving (70 dtex) i ii Cradle to Gate Undyed Textile Total FDY raw white (MJ) Textured yarn raw white (MJ) Average (MJ) 7.4 7.4 0.3 7.5 10. 2011.6 References i EcoNyl.11 Table D. 351 © 2016 . 14 ii van der Velden. p.7 0.

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