Italian textile firm Aquafil has a ‘multi-year’ partnership deal with bioengineering company Genomatica to produce a sustainable, plant-based ingredient the companies say will play a key role in reducing the environmental impacts from the nylon supply chain. The collaboration aims to develop a "commercially advantageous" bioprocess to manufacture caprolactam - a key compound in the production of nylon - using plant-based, renewable ingredients as against crude oil derived materials traditionally used in the nylon production.
The intention is the new approach will also help to cut production costs, as well as its environmental impact. Currently, petroleum-based caprolactam is widely used in a variety of nylon-based products, including clothing and carpets. The material has a global market of more than five million tons per year.
Switching to more sustainable forms of the compound will go a long way to create more environmentally friendly nylon products, the companies claim. The company explained utilising the GENO CPL process developed by Genomatica should not require any adjustments to machinery or processes in the existing nylon supply chain, adding that it can be applied to both larger and smaller scale production plants.
Genomatica’s CEO Christophe Schilling explains, the bio-based product's performance is fully comparable" with nylon derived from crude oil. This is another example of Genomatica applying the power of biology to rethink how widely-used chemicals can be made a better way," he said.
The two companies are also requesting a wider collaboration and encouraging other leaders in the sector such as chemical producers, agriculture firms and clothing brands to join its sustainable nylon programme. Giulio Bonazzi, chairman and CEO of Aquafil, said he wanted more consumers and manufacturers to play an active role in developing a more circular economy.