The Really Technical Stuff

The nitty-gritty on your Bella Eco Undies!

1 – What is Amni Soul Eco®? Synthetic yarns in general use plastic polymers such as PET and polyamide as feedstock. As plastic materials, it takes them decades or even centuries to biodegrade after being disposed, leaving an important environmental footprint at the end of the lifespan of the textile article. Amni Soul Eco® is the world’s first polyamide yarn with enhanced biodegradability, commercialized by Solvay. Amni Soul Eco® biodegrades in only a few years when disposed of in well-controlled landfills, as demonstrated by laboratory biodegradation tests in accordance with ASTM D5511 - Standard Test Method for Determining Anaerobic Biodegradation of Plastic Materials Under High-Solids Anaerobic -Digestion Conditions (equivalent to ISO 15985).

2 – How does Amni Soul Eco® work? Amni Soul Eco® is basically a polyamide with a formulation of additives that confer the property of enhanced biodegradability. These additives facilitate the access of bacteria to the microscopic structure of the fiber, by “swelling” the fiber when exposed to high humidity, and by triggering the biofilm formation process through a biological mechanism known as “quorum sensing”, which is the process by which microorganisms regulate the population density through chemical signaling. Once the biodegradation process initiates, the polyamide, with its chemical structure based on carbon and hydrogen, is intrinsically food for bacteria.

3 – With its enhanced biodegradability, will the fabric made with this yarn not deteriorate prematurely during its lifespan? Will it not smell bad? Can it not promote unwanted growth of bacteria, and even causing diseases to the user? In the market there are plastic materials that are so called “oxo-degradable” and “oxo-biodegradable”. Such materials deteriorate in the presence of oxygen and therefore rapidly lose their mechanical properties during use. Amni Soul Eco® is not oxo-degradable nor oxo-biodegradable as it will not undergo degradation in the simple presence of oxygen, but only, and when, exposed to a combination of ideal conditions, which are high humidity, absence of oxygen, and high concentrations of anaerobic methanogenic bacteria (bacteria that produce methane as a by-product of biodegradation). Such conditions will only occur when the product is disposed of in a landfill. During normal use, very much like most natural biodegradable materials (such as paper, cotton, wood), fabrics made with Amni Soul Eco® do not biodegrade or deteriorate, and do preserve all performance properties (such as strength, color, etc.).

4 - Is Amni Soul Eco® the most suitable yarn for my textile product, given the possibility that the predominant disposal system for household waste in my region may not be landfilling? From a global perspective, most of household waste is disposed of in landfills. Only in Europe composting predominates as the main disposal system for household waste. But even in Europe, composting can only be used for waste classified as “organic waste”, and packaging materials certified as “compostable”. Textile articles are not collected for composting, but only for recycling, and when recycling is not viable, landfilling or incineration is the final destination. Amni Soul Eco® is therefore suitable for most countries / regions.

5 - As a sustainable product, how does Amni Soul Eco® fit into the concept of  the 3 R’s (Reduce - Reuse - Recycle),  widely consolidated as a good practice  in the plastics industry? The concept of 3 R’s fully applies with no prejudice to Amni Soul Eco®. Reduce and Reuse are not hindered when compared to traditional polyamide yarns, since Amni Soul Eco® does not require changes in processes, nor reduces the lifespan of textile articles. Amni Soul Eco® also does not lose the intrinsic property of polyamide as a recyclable product. However, in practice, due to technical difficulties, and to the complexity of textile articles which may include mixtures with other materials, most synthetic textiles are not recycled, but directly disposed of in landfills. Therefore, Amni Soul Eco® is a more feasible alternative, from the applicability point of view, when compared to Recycling.

6 - Does Amni Soul Eco® have toxic components to humans or to the environment? Are the residues of biodegradation toxic to the environment? Can they be used as fertilizer? Amni Soul Eco® has no toxic components in its formulation. The product is Oekotex® certified. The residues of its biodegradation are basically organic compounds, in the same way as residues from other natural biodegradable materials such as paper and cotton. They are free of heavy metals, and their non-toxicity to the environment has been proven by testing according to method / standard ASTM E1963 - Standard Guide for Conducting Terrestrial Plant Toxicity Tests. In theory, the residues could even be used as fertilizer, but residues from landfills are not used as fertilizer, they remain buried indefinitely in the soil.

7 - Does Amni Soul Eco® biodegrade as quickly as cotton and other cellulosic fibers? What is the advantage of Amni  Soul Eco® over these fibers, which are  also biodegradable. The biodegradation rate of Amni Soul Eco® is slower than that of cotton and other cellulosic fibers. This difference, however, is not relevant in the context of landfilling, as long as full biodegradation is still reached within the landfill operational lifespan, not being relevant whether it takes weeks, months or a few years, which is the case with Amni Soul Eco®. Although cotton and cellulosic fibers are from renewable resources, their production chain also has a significant environmental impact, as it involves significant consumption of water, energy, land use, pesticides, etc. Polyamides have several advantages over cotton, such as mechanical properties, durability, dimensional stability, comfort, dyeability in bright colors, and color fastness. Polyamide textiles also require less energy and water consumption for its maintenance during the lifespan (“easy-care” - washing, drying, ironing), besides its longer durability. Amni Soul Eco®, by preserving all the intrinsic characteristics of the polyamide in its processing and use, presents all these advantages over cotton and other cellulosic fibers and, finally, conferring the property of enhanced biodegradability, thus reducing the environmental impact of the product at the end of its lifespan.

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