Synthetic fibre from oil.
A synthetic fibre that possesses wool-like properties. Currently 75% of acrylic fibre production is used in clothing manufacture, seeing applications in range of products where it is suitable for use in knitwear. Acrylic fibres can be manufactured to have high bulk and are then ideal for use where good thermal insulation is a pre-requisite. Modacrylics are acrylic fibres that are manufactured with inherent fire retardant properties and are ideal where these are required.
Where it grows / Where it is made
Top countries: China - India - Turkey - Mexico
95% of production into knitwear. Apparel - sweaters, socks, fleece, circular knit apparel, leisurewear.
Impact on the environment
Since acrylic fabric is not biodegradable, its environmental impact is largely negative. Also, the production processes used to make acrylic fabric harm workers and the ecosystems surrounding manufacturing facilities.
The production processes used to make acrylic fabric are highly volatile, and production plants that manufacture this fiber are constantly at risk of exploding if necessary safeguards fail. A variety of toxic substances are used in the production of acrylic fabric, and if these substances aren’t handled or disposed of correctly, they enter surrounding ecosystems and harm wildlife and human inhabitants. The gases produced in acrylonitrile manufacturing are so harmful that legislation requires they be properly filtered in a closed environment before they can leave a production facility.
Unlike polyester and some other synthetic fabrics, it is practically impossible to recycle acrylic fabric, which means that there is no effective means of disposal of acrylic garments once they are produced. Acrylic fiber is not biodegradable, so it simply accumulates in the environment and will stay there for hundreds of years until it slowly starts to break down.
Acrylic fabric also releases microplastics when washed which enter the water supply and poison ecosystems.
More sustainable alternatives
Any natural fiber.
End of life possibilities
Not biodegradable & may generate noxious fumes on burning. Garments made from acrylic fibres can be re-used. The fibres are resistant to biodegradation and therefore disposal to any process reliant on this, is not viable and landfill would be needed. Incineration is a possibility however conditions must be such as to prevent the formation of toxic by-products such as cyanide, from the fibres.
Avoid garments made of acrylic.