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Billi London's biodegradable tights

A key value at the heart of our brand is waste reduction. We believe that reducing waste is key to addressing sustainability challenges present in the hosiery industry. Every year, thousands of tonnes of stockings end up in landfills, most of which consist of synthetic fibres.

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

At Billi London, we want to change this and have fun along the way so we have developed a collection of wardrobe must-haves that biodegrade in a record time of around 5 years in landfills (anaerobic conditions) compared to most tights which take 40 to 100 years to degrade.

Legs of a woman wearing black Billi London biodegradable tights lying down

 

How do Billi London Tights biodegrade? 

Thin tights are made of two blended fibres - nylon and elastane yarn. However, as these fibres are synthetic they usually take decades, if not centuries, to decompose. To counter this problem, we have developed the world’s first enhanced biodegradable tights, leggings and socks.

We have opted for two yarns that offer accelerated biodegradability.

Firstly, our nylon yarn, which is the dominant fibre in hosiery is sourced from Italian–based supplier Fulgar. They provide us with their Amni Soul Eco® Nylon, which has been modified to attract bacteria to accelerate its biodegradation process in an anaerobic environment (an oxygen-free environment).

Anaerobic environments are characteristic of modern, controlled landfills. The bacteria munch on the biodegradable yarn turning it into organic matter and biogas in this specific environment. This is essentially an organic process that we are accelerating.

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 tights that decompose in around 5 years in landfills (anaerobic conditions) are more advantageous than traditional/recycled tights at the end-of-life stage. We think science is sexy. You should too.

Scientist wearing lab coat gesturing to science sign

Our biodegradable nylon yarn have been tested by ASTM International and have met the ASTM D5511-18 standard, which is the standard test method for determining the anaerobic biodegradation of plastic materials under high-solids anaerobic-digestion conditions.

Secondly, our elastane yarn (which gives your pantyhose stretch), is sourced from the European branch of Asahi Kasei, which is located in Germany. They provide us with their ROICA ™ V550 biodegradable yarn, which is a special polymer that decomposes - without releasing harmful substances as verified and tested by Hohenstein Environmental compatibility certificate.

During the biodegradation process, our sustainable tights do not leave behind microplastics.

Billi London OEKO-TEX Amni Soul Eco Roica material certifications

Future initiatives 

To further advance the shift towards circularity, will eventually introduce a take-back scheme. Your old pair of tights could be sent to an anaerobic digestion facility*, a textile recycling facility, designers in the upcycling sphere or used during our upcycling workshops.

Old tights upcycled into macrame plant hanger with Billi London

*If you’re non the wiser (trust us, we weren’t when we started this mission!), anaerobic digestion is the process by which organic matter is broken down to produce biogas such as methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). This process happens in a sealed, oxygen-free tank called an anaerobic digester. Instead of being released into the atmosphere, these gases are used to generate renewable energy such as electricity and heat.

It is the French Government’s objective to ensure that 16% of total gas consumption comes from renewable gas by 2030 and that this should increase to between 35% to 50% by 2050. Of this latter figure, 17% should be biogas produced via anaerobic digestion. 

Why not use recycled yarns?

It is possible to produce stockings using recycled nylon coming from other used items (such as fishing nets). However, this solution addresses the sourcing rather than the end-of-life stage.

Unfortunately, it is NOT POSSIBLE to recycle old tights into new ones as separating the nylon which is wrapped around elastane is not commercially viable.

Instead, we wanted to focus on reducing the time that tights exist as waste all the while converting the gases released into renewable energy.

Close-up of Billi London patterned plain tights shown on legs

What are the advantages of wearing Billi London biodegradable legwear?

  • We offer the first sustainable legwear to biodegrade in a record time of around 5 years in landfills (anaerobic conditions) compared to most hosiery which takes 40 to 100 years to degrade. This is a whopping 20 times faster.
  • Our tights and other legwear biodegrade into organic matter (biomass) and biogas creating renewable resources.
  • They will make you feel sensual and elegant throughout the day (our clients’ words not ours).

Discover the collection 

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