In September, at the third annual Green Carpet Fashion Awards Italia, fiber producer Aquafil provided a design showstopper—a sustainable carpet made with Econyl regenerated nylon that is created from discarded fishing nets and other nylon waste. Covering Milan’s Piazza della Scala, the green carpet spanned more than 21,000 square feet and welcomed celebrity guests including Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, fashion designer Stella McCartney, actor Colin Firth and actress Sophia Loren. 

The event celebrated fashion houses’ commitment to sustainability as they work to embrace rapid change while preserving the heritage and authenticity of small-scale producers. As in previous years, the Econyl carpet was produced in collaboration with the Danish Company, European manufacturer Ege Carpets, and for the second year, designed by Vogue Editor Hamish Bowles.

“We are privileged to partner with the Green Carpet Fashion Awards Italia for the third year running”, said Giulio Bonazzi, Aquafil president and CEO “Honoring the endless possibilities offered by our Econyl regenerated nylon, which can be used both in fashion and design, Aquafil is turning a waste problem into exceptional solutions.”

Each year in the U.S., four billion pounds of carpet is tossed in landfills. Most carpets are made primarily from finite resources such as oil-based plastics that could be recycled, yet only 5% of carpet waste is recycled. To tackle the issue, Aquafil’s Econyl fiber is 100% regenerated nylon yarn from waste that is used widely in commercial carpeting. To make its fiber, the company rescues waste from a number of sources including fishing nets, carpets, fabric scraps and industrial plastic.

To help these recycled fibers, Aquafil has a carpet recycling plant in Phoenix that opened in 2018 and has the capacity to collect and treat 35 million pounds of carpet each year. Econyl contributes to LEED v4 points in four main categories:  

Integrative Process

Aquafil shares its knowledge and experience creating sustainable materials with project teams to collectively enhance human comfort and environmental benefits.

  • Indoor Environmental Quality—Econyl is a low-VOC emitting material.
  • Materials and Resources—In terms of Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction, Econyl has an 80% reduction on global warming potential compared to virgin nylon. And regarding Sourcing of Raw Materials, Econyl comes from 100% waste material of which a minimum of 50% post-consumer waste is certified.
  • Innovation—Econyl fosters advancement of the circular economy through nylon regeneration, going beyond recycling.

“Today, about 55 million pounds of fiber are used in the fashion and apparel business,” Bonazzi said. “If we do nothing, in 10 or 20 years, this number will be at least three times bigger. There are market studies that say that if we continue like that today, the emissions coming from the fashion industry account between two to 3% of the global initiatives and it could be between 25 to 30% in few years. We believe that if we wanted to have a bright future, we have to make products in a different way.”

The company reports that for every 10,000 tons of Econyl raw material, 70,000 barrels of crude oil are saved, and 57,100 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions are avoided. Econyl is also UL and Cradle-to-Cradle certified.

Since the carpet industry takes so much inspiration from fashion, the companies must take a leading position in changing their ways. 

“We have to work together with the carpet industry to start collecting carpets from the end user,” said Franco Rossi, Aquafil USA president. “If we start making carpets in a different way so that the life is a little easier, it will mean a cost over lower cost and bigger possibility for turnover. To date, the carpet industry has been a little resistant to the idea, but I think we are going to change with time. We will realize that for carpet to become great again, it needs to look at the future and not at the past—as it does now.”