Nylon is a tough material that’s extremely versatile. Found in commercial, industrial, and consumer products, it is one of the more common synthetic polymers in use today. Equipment manufacturers will sometimes buy nylon washers as a metal washer alternative when strength and resistance are needed. Nylon is essential for many high-strength and lightweight components. It is also widely used in the production of all types of clothing, fiber, and textiles.
But since nylon is a synthetic polymer, it can pose many problems when it comes to long-term sustainability. This can be a concern for industrial parts like large nylon washers, screws, brackets, and other components. However, an item like a nylon washer will stay out of the waste cycle so long as it, and the piece of equipment or structure it’s been applied to, is still in good, useable condition. Additionally, rigid parts like black or natural nylon washers can sometimes be salvaged and reused as long as they are still viable.
Why Is Nylon Waste A Problem?
Nylon can create a bigger environmental issue when it comes to products that have a more limited lifecycle, like clothing. Nylon-blended fibers and fabrics are used widely by the fashion industry, as well as in sporting equipment, industrial and home textiles, and more. They can be very enduring but they do not last forever. Regular wear-and-tear will affect even the most well-made of these products. And when it comes to clothing, consumers will quickly discard articles that no longer meet their needs.
Although nylon can be recycled, its use-cycle is somewhat short. More often than not, a nylon product can be recycled into useable material just once. That recycled product is then no longer viable for additional recycling once it reaches the end of its life and at that point, it will become waste. Nylon does not biodegrade and can release toxic fumes when exposed to flame or certain chemicals. For these reasons and others, it’s necessary to keep waste nylon out of the environment.
Keeping Nylon Useable And Sustainable
Some materials scientists and manufacturers are working on methods that would greatly reduce the impact of nylon waste. One option for doing so is by developing new technologies that make nylon more useable as part of a continuous cycle.
For example, nylon flat washers that have become warped or are no longer useable in their current form would be salvaged for use as fibers that could then be used in carpeting and rugs. When a recycled nylon carpet then reaches the end of its life, special material extraction methods could then be used to create new fibers for other textiles.
Although still in experimental or limited production phases, these “cradle-to-cradle” material recycling methods could transform short lifecycle materials into resources that offer continuous use for certain industries and markets.
Other waste reduction strategies are focused on the phaseout of conventional virgin polymers and petroleum-derived synthetics. The use of these materials would be gradually discontinued in favor of biopolymers, which are derived from natural sources. Modern textile fabric companies, especially those in the clothing and apparel industry, are exploring the use of bamboo, algae, coffee grounds, and other types of cellulose to create fibers that are similar to nylon, acrylic, and polyester.
Since they are derived from natural materials, biopolymer products not only have a reduced environmental impact during the initial production stage, they offer greater possibilities for continuous recycling and are more biodegradable than current synthetics.
These are not the only options that manufacturers are now exploring for making materials and products more useable in the future, which is necessary since it’s very likely that a more sustainable future will depend on a combination of solutions.