Turning Waste into Nylon

By Outerknown Journey
“Outerknown came to us with the goal of manufacturing nylon products that were not only made entirely of regenerated materials, but that would be endlessly regenerative…” - Giulio Bonazzi

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and The Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate there are more than 640,000 tons of abandoned fishing nets currently in our oceans. These massive knots of woven fiber can remain adrift for substantial amounts of time and are often responsible for the accidental capture of many types of marine life including whales, fish, birds and turtles. Fortunately, there’s a breakthrough regeneration process that’s actively helping to reduce and remove this waste from our oceans.

Italian based group Aquafil offers an incentive for fishermen to turn in and properly dispose of their worn nets, keeping them out of the sea. Using a cutting edge regeneration process the nets are broken down, combined with other types of pre- and post-consumer waste and transformed into ECONYL® - an innovative new nylon yarn. Aquafil describes their process as regeneration as opposed to recycling because it's a closed-loop system, there's an infinite number of times the nylon can be broken down and re-born into new yarn without any loss of quality.

Kelly a top reclaimed fishing nets at the ECONYL® Intake Center, Slovenia.  

In late 2014, in an effort to get a deeper understanding of the process, Kelly and the Outerknown production team traveled to the ECONYL® intake center in Slovenia. There, they got a first hand look at Aquafil’s break-though ECONYL® process. This was the beginning of a partnership with Aquafil, one step in Outerknown’s commitment to bringing transparency and sustainability into the supply chain.

“By collecting the fishing nets that are regenerated into ECONYL® products, we lessen our environmental impact while also cleaning up the oceans that we love so much – and that unique commitment to sustainability is central to who we are as a company” – Kelly Slater

70% of a company’s environmental impact happens at the raw-material level. Using a regenerated product like ECONYL® to create fabrics greatly lessens Outerknown’s environmental impact. This season, the Evolution series of jackets and boardshorts feature ECONYL® as the key fabric in their design.

Preparing reclaimed fishing nets manually before they begin the regeneration process.

“Our partnership with Outerknown was born out of a shared vision and ambition for sustainable change,” said Giulio Bonazzi, CEO of Aquafil.“Outerknown came to us with the goal of manufacturing nylon products that were not only made entirely of regenerated materials, but could be endlessly regenerative without any loss in quality, in a way that only ECONYL® can provide. This goes beyond the typical use of recycled materials and puts Outerknown on the cutting edge of sustainable fashion.”

In collaboration with ECONYL® Outerknown aims to re-write the rules for producing manmade fibers. The goal is to one-day manufacture products that are not only entirely made from recovered materials, but are fully and endlessly regenerative, a truly closed-loop production cycle. For Outerknown, this is just the beginning.