Oil based synthetic fibre.
An oil based synthetic fibre, nylon is probably the most durable of the synthetic fibres used in corporate clothing. It is not used as widely as polyester for several reasons, among which are that it is more prone to staining, it has poorer UV resistance and more prone to creasing during industrial laundering. It is however used in garments such as fleeces and outerwear where the superior abrasion resistance is of benefit.
Where it grows / Where it is made
Top countries: China - USA - Taiwan - Korea - Japan
Mainly in outerwear. Nylon clothing has a good stability and strength and is resistant to stretching and shrinkage. There is a tendency for UV degradation but the fibre still finds widespread use in outerwear.
Impact on the environment
The production of nylon fabric is generally considered to have a negative environmental impact. One of the primary causes of the detrimental environmental effects of producing this fabric is the raw material that is used in its production; while it's possible to make nylon fabric with other substances, most producers use crude oil as their source of hexamethylenediamine, which is the main constituent of most types of nylon fabric.
A great deal of energy is also required to make nylon fabric, and a number of waste materials are also produced during the manufacturing process. Large quantities of water are used to cool nylon fabric fibers, and this water often carries pollutants into the hydrosphere surrounding manufacturing locations. In the production of adipic acid, which is the secondary constituent part of most types of nylon fabric, nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere, and this has is considered to be 300 times worse for the environment than CO2.
Since nylon fabric is entirely synthetic, this substance is not biodegradable; while other fabrics, such as cotton, may biodegrade within a matter of decades, polymer fabrics will remain in the environment for hundreds of years. Thankfully, some forms of this fabric are recyclable, but not all waste management services recycle this substance.
More sustainable alternatives
Re-processed nylon, Econyl.
End of life possibilities
Non biodegradable and therefore some limitations. In general nylon is not bio-degradable and is therefore unsuitable for composting. Disposal to landfill is regarded as an option, however as a melt spun fibre it is possible to remanufacture the nylon into more fibre or other applications. Fibres produced from re-processed nylon are available. This process is not however as easy as with polyester. Coated fabrics will have very limited opportunities at the end of life.
Avoid traditional nylon and instead go for Econyl while remaining vigilant about microfibre shedding.