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Let's find out about uses for old tights.


According to the Halte à l'Obsolescence Programmé almost 130 million pairs of tights were sold in France in 2018, and pantyhose represent on average more than 7,315 tonnes of waste per year.


There are many different ways of dealing with this textile waste. However, some have a greater environmental impact than others. In this article, we are going to talk specifically about post-consumer waste so that you can decide what to do next time you’re considering throwing out your pantyhose.


Managing hosiery waste with Billi London

Myth: old tights can be recycled into new ones


Unfortunately, it is NOT POSSIBLE to recycle old nylon tights into new ones.


When you see hosiery labelled as 'recycled', this means that the nylon they are made from has come from another source, such as fishing nets. It should be noted that old pantyhose cannot be recycled into new pantyhose. This is because once the recycled nylon is wrapped around the elastane (which gives your pantyhose stretch) it is not possible to separate the fibres again.


Research and development undertaken by Billi London shows that nylon tights labelled as 'recycled' can only be made from nylon fibres from sources other than tightsRecycled nylon tights

So, what can I do with my old tights?


1. Downcycling


Downcycling (a form of recycling) is the process by which items of a higher value are converted into something of less value.


The recycling of old tights into another product of less value is possible but limited. Waste can be collected and downcycled into other industries to create insulation and padding for homes and cars, for instance. However, most people do not bring their pantyhose to textile collection centres. Only 10% of respondents said that they do this (link in French).



2. Upcycling 


In contrast, upcycling is the process by which items of a lower value are converted into something of a higher value.


In the case of old tights, it is possible to turn these into something nifty at home. Sometimes, you can’t fix a tear or run despite being extremely skilful with a needle and thread, or familiar with clear nail polish. When tights can no longer be worn, they can be turned into something nice and helpful – at home, often in just a few minutes and without involving any sewing!

You can make a small travel bag, tawashi sponge, headband or hair band, as well as a small soap bag to help it lather, which you can hang up in the shower. And old tights’ legs can also help you clean the house, for instance by collecting dust, removing animal hairs from fabric or clothing, or helping you reach a small item lost under a piece of furniture: just stretch a piece of your old tights over your hoover’s nozzle and hold it in place firmly.


If you feel creative, read our tutorial to turn old tights into a macrame plant hanger. Many other tutorials are on their way! (Extra tip: sign-up to our newsletter here to get them all.) To watch our video on waste management and get some DIY craft inspiration to upcycle old tights, click here.


A picture of a model's leg wearing a white skirt, yellow high heeled boots and a pair of Billi London exclusive Coco Pattern Seamless Eco Black Tights


3. Incineration 


With this method, pantyhose can participate in energy recovery.


This is because the majority of incinerators have been equipped to create energy to convert into electricity, heat or gas. However, the use of incineration is not very sustainable, which explains why it is the penultimate option in the hierarchy of waste management. Incineration risks generating toxic fumes, dust and acid molecules. Incinerators must adhere to the emission limit values ​​set by the regulations. Additionally, it bypasses the opportunity to recover the material which could be reinjected into the economy. Energy recovery should never replace material recovery where possible.


Incineration, therefore, is not a strong solution. In fact, policies are being implemented to make recycling more competitive than disposal (via incinerators or in landfills) by increasing taxes on activities that generate carbon emissions. In 2021, the General Tax on Polluting Activities (TGAP) on incineration increased in France from €8 / €20 per tonne (depending on the operating modalities) to €15 / €25 per tonne. This increase is due to come into force by 2025.


At Billi London, we strictly prohibit incinerating tights.


Managing hosiery waste with Billi London


4. Enhanced biodegradation 


According to the Science Learning Hub  – Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao - nylon takes 30 to 40 years to decompose, and according to the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program, monofilament nylon fishing lines take up to 600 years to decompose. It is also important to note that this waste is never redirected to an incinerator. The hosiery remains in landfills.


In 64% of cases, women throw their old tights in the bin and 29% of household waste collected ends up in landfills. Enhanced biodegradation is the solution championed by Billi London to reduce the harmful environmental impact of pantyhose that ends up in landfills. Our hosiery biodegrades in a record time of around 5 years** compared to 40 to 100 years for traditional/recycled nylon pantyhose. This means our products biodegrade approximately 80% faster than traditional/recycled nylon tights.


According to UNISAN, landfills will be maintained for up to 30 years after capping. In this period, biogases are released, collected and converted into energy. After approximately 30 years, landfills are closed and the biogases are no longer collected and converted into energy. This is why enhanced biodegradable pantyhose that decompose in around 5 years are more advantageous than traditional/recycled nylon hosiery when they are sent to controlled landfills. You can learn more about the biodegradability process of Billi London's pieces here.


*Zerowaste France "TGAP déchets"; GOUV, "Plan national des déchets - 2019".

**In landfill, reference system: ASTM D5511 - Std test.


Managing hosiery waste with Billi London