In 2014, Aquafil USA completed two major expansion projects totaling $25 million in development. The first, a brand new facility, will now hold all of the company’s reprocessing equipment, including machinery for twisting, heat setting, and air entangling.
That left room at the company’s existing facility to set up a new operation for processing post-consumer carpet. There, Aquafil USA will now be able to shear 2 million pounds of old carpet per year, creating nylon 6 fluff that will be sent to Ljubljana, Slovenia, to be regenerated into Econyl nylon 6 fiber.
“Aquafil USA has grown organically and physically over the past several years,” said Franco Rossi, president of Aquafil USA. “The next logical step was to upgrade our facilities to meet the demand we face. This expansion will allow for a smoother production operation and reaffirms our commitment to the region and U.S. market.”
All told, new developments have increased Aquafil USA’s capacity by 30 percent (50 million pounds of extruded fiber per year) and created 100 jobs in Cartersville.
The Yulon plant in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is the heart of the Econyl regeneration system—and probably the most complex of Aquafil Group’s plants. For this reason, it has been chosen as an “experimental” site where Aquafil has set out to quantify precisely the environmental impact of the raw materials used and the environmental load added to them by manufacturing and processing activities.
A new tool will compare the environmental impact of Aquafil products made with virgin raw materials versus products made with Econyl regenerated materials. The primary aim of this research is to focus the attention of management and the whole corporation not only on the cost and quality of the components of each product or the environmental performance of a single plant, but also on the increasingly important issue of the environmental impact that each product creates during its lifecycle.
Den Oever, the Netherlands
In 2013, Aquafil, ECNC, and Star Sock launched the Healthy Seas initiative, which aims to recycle and recover abandoned fishing nets and feed them into the Econyl regeneration system to become commercial-ready nylon 6 fiber. The latest development for the program kicked off on September 1 in the port town of Den Oever in the Netherlands, where 40 fishing boats will now collect their waste fishing nets for Healthy Seas. Over the course of one year, the fleet is expected to collect 30 tons of nets—separating the materials from the main waste stream in a process that will cost fishermen less than traditional net disposal methods and likely prevent tons of nets from being left behind in the water and threatening marine life.
Together, Aquafil, the Zoological Society of London, Interface, and Project Seahorse have established a unique model for sourcing raw materials for carpet production while protecting marine life and creating new financial opportunities for struggling fishing communities in impoverished regions. The program is called the Net-Works Project, and through it, nine tons of reclaimed fishing nets were collected by local villagers in the Philippines and shipped to the Aquafil plant in Slovenia this year to be regenerated into Econyl nylon 6 fiber. This was the first contribution Net-Works made to the Econyl regeneration system, with more on the way.
Upon arrival, the nets were cleaned and prepared at a waste treatment facility in Ajdovscina, Slovenia, then transported to the Yulon regeneration plant in Ljubljana, where they were placed into a machine to be melted and depolymerized. From these nets, together with other waste material, Econyl regenerated yarn was produced and sent to Interface for their new Human Nature collection, which launched at NeoCon earlier this year.