Why is recycling in the tights industry not a solution?
Recycling an old pair of the tights into a new one is not possible. This is because the separation of the two materials (nylon and elastane) once combined together is technically impossible. So a laddered tight pollutes.
So what are the current options to manage tights waste?
The recycling of tights into another product is possible, but very limited. Tights can be collected and reintroduced into other industries such as insulation panels and padding type products for homes and cars.
However, the act of bringing tights in a collection center for used textiles is rare and not yet acquired: only 10% of cases among users.
It is also possible to transform your tights into sponges, hair bands, bulk bags or others.
With this method, tights can participate in energy recovery. This is because the majority of incinerators have been equipped to allow this recovery in electricity, heat or gas.
However, the use of incineration is not very satisfactory, which explains why it is the penultimate option in the hierarchy of waste management. But why ?
There are risks of toxic fumes, emission of dust and rejection of the acid molecules that are generated. Incinerators must respect the emission limit values set by the regulations.
It replaces material recovery, meaning that it can prevent the creation of new material which could be reinjected into the economy. Energy recovery should never replace material recovery where possible.
Incineration is therefore not the solution of tomorrow. Policies are in place to make recycling more competitive than disposal (in incinerators or in landfill) by increasing general taxes on polluting activities (CO2 taxes).
In 64% of cases, women throw their tights in the bin and 29% of household waste collected ends up in landfills. We can therefore estimate that 29% of tights thrown in the bin finish their life cycle in this place, where it will take them decades to decompose.
Indeed, according to Conservation Nature, the decomposition time of nylon is 30 to 40 years and according to the Monofilament Recovery and recycling Program it is up to 600 years.
It is also important to note that these wastes are never redirected to an incinerator: they remain in landfill.
What does biodegradability mean for the tights industry?
Biodegradability is the solution championed by Billi London to reduce the harmful environmental impact of tights that end up in landfills which represent millions of tights.
In fact, almost 130 million pairs of tights are sold today in France (in 2018) and represent on average more than 7,315 tonnes of waste per year.
Our tights biodegrade in a record time of under 5 years compared to 40 to 100 years for traditional tights. This means they reduce the time a pair of tights pollute the planet by 80%.
The use of our yarn takes advantage of the development methods to recycle waste via anaerobic digestion: an option developed as part of the goal to move from a linear to a circular economy for the near future.*.
Our tights will eventually participate in recycling methods by anaerobic digestion as they already break down into biogas, a renewable energy.
* The objective is that by 2030, 16% of the final gas consumption should come from renewable gas and between 35% to 50% by 2050. The share of biogas created by anaerobic digestion and injected into the gas network must be 17% by 2050.
How do Billi London tights biodegrade?
We offer the world’s first enhanced biodegradable tights, decomposing in less than 5 years in landfill versus 40 to 100 years for traditional tights (reference system: ASTM D5511 - Std test).
Tights are made of nylon and elastane. For Billi London tights, we have opted for yarns that have an accelerated biodegradability:
- Nylon certified OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 class 1, guaranteeing it is not toxic for our health.
- The elastane used is a special polymer decomposing without having negative impact on the environment. It is certified OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 class 1, degrading in the environment without releasing harmful substances as verified and tested by Hohenstein Environmental compatibility certificate.
The manufacturing formula of the nylon that we use - a 6.6 polyamide, has been modified to attract microorganisms to accelerate its biodegradation process.
These bacteria munch on the tights turning into organic matter and biogaz in an anaerobic environment (an oxygen-free environment) and effectively making them disappear. It's not glamorous, but this environment is characteristic of landfills.
The formula which allows these bacteria to nibble and transform it into organic matter and biogas, is part of the manufacturing secrets of our suppliers and laboratory.
Why not using recycled yarns?
Even though using recycled nylon coming from other industries (such as fishnet for instance) is possible, the reality is less glorious.
The technology behind recycling often requires the use of additional, harmful chemicals and it very often deteriorates the quality of the fiber, thus reducing the possibility of recycling it indefinitely.
Indeed it should be noted that recycling can only be part of a circular economy if the loop can be reproduced endlessly, which is almost the case for glass and metal, but it is not for plastic products.
Well, biodegradable materials are naturally part of the biological cycle of organic matter, which guarantees their unlimited renewal.
What are the advantages of wearing Billi London biodegradable tights?
- They are the only tights biodegrading in a record time of under 5 years compared to 40 to 100 years for traditional tights (reference system: ASTM D5511 - Std test)
- They decompose into organic matter (biomass) and biogas creating renewable resources.
- They reduce the time a pair of tights pollute the environment in landfill by more than 80%, protecting our planet today and for the generations to come.
- Our production line leaves a beneficial footprint for human society and the planet by minimizing or avoiding the use of chemical products and focusing on low energy and water consumption best practices.