Aquafil and Genomatica Join Forces for Bio-Nylon

Aquafil and Genomatica have announced a multi-year agreement to create sustainable caprolactam, a key ingredient to producing 100-percent sustainable nylon. The collaboration aims to develop a commercially advantageous bioprocess (Genomatica’s GENO CPL™ process) to make caprolactam using plant-based renewable ingredients rather than the crude oil-derived materials traditionally used by the nylon industry.

“As proven by the success of ECONYL, consumers and manufacturers look forward to opportunities to play an active role in the circular economy,” said Giulio Bonazzi, chairman and CEO of Aquafil. “We aim to be a leader of sustainability for nylon and we are excited by the opportunity to be the first to bring the benefits of this new technology to our customers, which is perfectly in line with our commitment to creating sustainable products. Genomatica brings the technology, innovation, and track record to help us achieve this.”

Used in a variety of nylon-based products including carpet and apparel, caprolactam has a worldwide market of more than five million tons per year. Genomatica’s GENO CPL process aims to provide an environmentally friendly way to make caprolactam with better economics, including for smaller-scale plants. Additionally, it will enable licensees and their customers to differentiate themselves by offering a more sustainable bio-based product with a performance that will be fully comparable to nylon made from crude oil-derived caprolactam. In addition, it won’t require any machine or process adjustments by the nylon supply chain. Genomatica is the licensor of the GENO CPLT process.

Aquafil is a leading producer of nylon yarn and launched the ECONYL® Regeneration System in 2011 to produce nylon made from 100-percent regenerated waste. A large and growing number of globally recognized sportswear, fashion, luxury, and carpet brands choose ECONYL as the sustainable ingredient for their product. Like the ECONYL process, the GENO CPL process eliminates the significant amount of by-products common to most crude oil-derived caprolactam production, and will allow producers to diversify their sources in terms of raw material.

Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica, added, “Visionary companies like Aquafil are delighting customers and gaining market share through more sustainable products. This is another example of Genomatica applying the power of biology to rethink how widely used chemicals can be made a better way. Just as we’ve surpassed key milestones for our commercial GENO BDO process and were named winner of the ICIS Innovation Award for our new naturally sourced butylene glycol, we now aim to bring biotechnology innovation to enable better nylon products.”

Genomatica invites other leaders in the nylon value chain to join its bio-nylon program and Aquafil encourages further collaboration with supply chain partners. By joining the program, companies ranging from chemical producers and product makers to agriculture companies and major brands can engage, influence priorities, and gain access to Genomatica’s technologies and supply of bio-based chemicals.

Genomatica's process to make bio-based caprolactam aims to let Aquafil and others make more sustainable nylon apparel, carpets, and fibers.

Genomatica's process to make bio-based caprolactam aims to let Aquafil and others make more sustainable nylon apparel, carpets, and fibers.