Japan's Itochu Corporation has partnered with European nylon producer Aquafil to promote and expand the businesses of the latter company's circular nylon production.

The global achievement of carbon neutrality is urgently necessary, and the improvement of the recycling rate of petrochemical products is recognised as one of the most important challenges, the companies say.

Nylon is used for textiles and plastic materials made through petrochemistry in a range of fields such as fashion, carpeting, fishing, food packaging, and automobiles. However, many products use nylon blended with other materials in a compound form, making it a difficult material to be recycled.

In 2011 Aquafil created its Econyl Regeneration System that turns recovered nylon waste such as fishing nets, carpets and post-industrial waste back to caprolactam (CPL), a crude raw material. Through its proprietary chemical recycling technology, Aquafil eliminates impurities completely, to achieve regenerated nylon product having the same features of the virgin quality materials.

Econyl nylon is made completely from waste, which enables up to 90% CO2 reduction compared to conventional nylon made from petroleum. Focusing on the fashion and carpeting industries, Econyl nylon has been adopted as an environmentally-friendly material by more than 2,000 brands around the world. In the fashion industry, it has drawn attention and received strong support from major fashion brands including Burberry, Gucci and Prada.

Itochu claims to be the world's largest dealer, in terms of quantity, of CPL and nylon chips, the raw materials of nylon. The utilisation of Itochu's nylon value chain corresponded the direction of Aquafil's Econyl business, resulting in the purpose of the partnership.

Moving forward, Itochu will leverage its group's diverse network and expand sales for applications in fashion, carpeting, automobiles, and packaging materials. Moreover, the company plans to enforce Aquafil's nylon waste recovery scheme using its existing sales chain and will also implement the partnership from the perspective of the stable supply of raw materials to Aquafil. Through its collaboration from the recovery of waste to the sale of Aquafil's products, Itochu aims to expand the businesses of nylon circularity.

The Japanese company has established that the contribution to SDGs and reinforced measures to achieve them is a basic policy in its next medium-term management plan. Through the further expansion of the circular nylon recycling businesses, Itochu and Aquafil say they will contribute to the advancement of a sustainable recycling-oriented society.