Yet, caprolactam, the basic chemistry of nylon fibres, has long been known for its limited availability. As polyamide fibres allow a closed-loop recycling process which results in fibres that are indistinguishable from virgin PA 6 and PA 6.6, the awareness to reusing an important resource was being raised in Europe in the mid-1990s when an extensive research project was launched in the carpet industry.
Polyamide fibre chains can be depolymerised and broken down into the main building block caprolactam. It can be reused for the manufacturing of polyamide fibres but mainly becomes blended with virgin caprolactam. These fibres are said to match the mechanical and physical performance of similar commercial grades.
Caprolactam that was processed through a nylon recycling facility has an ecological impact, too: US fibre mills claim that the manufacturing of PA 6 requires 40% less energy while the energy consumption for PA 6.6 is 18% less than fibres made exclusively with virgin caprolactam.
The water consumption is 15% less, organic waste can be reduced severely and usage of crude oil is shaved off one ton per each ton of recycled polyamide fibres. Nonetheless, mats for very long have not been known to be made from recycled polyamide fibres.
Yet, sustainability is a major topic in the textile rental service and creates needs for eco-friendly dirt trapping mats.
Milliken, one of the key players in the ‘walk-off-mat’ business, has set up a project regarding the use of 100% recycled polyamide to produce a full range of solution dyed mats with total compatibility with the existing product line in terms of aesthetics and performance. At 2012´s Texcare show in Frankfurt/Main the company presented its first mat with Econyl (Aquafil USA) pile which is made from post-consumer and post-industrial waste.
Kufstein based Kleen-Tex Industries is another supplier of dirt trapping mats. The company followed the path of sustainability, too, but placed emphasis on PET bottles which were transformed into fibres. Green-Horse mats consist of 25 bottles per square meter of solution-dyed mat fabric and come in a colour range of smokey black, black, smokey grey and red. They are suitable for laundering and drying at 60°C.