Are Recycled or Biodegradable tights more sustainable?

The tights industry is changing, fast.  It is a very exciting thing to be a part of but with the ever-increasing sustainable options, it can be a challenge to work out which is best.  One of the first decisions you need to make when looking at sustainable tights is whether to go for tights made from recycled fabric or for biodegradable tights.

Ultimately, there are advantages to both.  So to help you make the choice between recycled or biodegradable tights, here are the 5 points you need to consider and our view on which option comes out better…

50 denier recycled tights lying down legs kicking

Key points to consider when choosing between recycled or biodegradable tights

1. Raw materials used

Tights are predominantly made from Nylon which is a type polyamide, and polyamide is a type of plastic.  The nylon is created using chemicals from fossil fuels like oil in a high-pressure and heated environment.  Obviously, oil doesn’t have a great rep these days and the extraction of these raw materials is dirty and energy intensive.

What is more sustainable? Recycled. Based on raw materials alone, using recycled nylon would be better. This is because it doesn’t require the extraction of more oil or coal but instead uses what is already available.

2. Reducing waste that ends up in landfill

Recycled tights are either made from the offcuts from regular production or other nylon waste that has been recycled into new yarn (or both, like ours).  Either of these approaches essentially removes what would have gone to landfill (or possibly incinerated) and puts it to good use.  Whatever we can do to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill has to be a good thing.

And whilst biodegradable yarn reduces the amount of time it takes your tights to breakdown, it doesn’t this save existing fabric which may therefore end up rotting in landfill for decades.

What is more sustainable? Recycled.

3. Environmental cost of production

Creating nylon is a very energy intensive process and it requires a LOT of water.  In addition, it creates a gas called nitrous oxide.  Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and it also depletes the ozone layer.  That’s why using recycled nylon means using less water and producing less emissions.

What is more sustainable? Recycled.

4. What happens when it is thrown in the bin?

If you throw your tights in the bin then they will end up in landfill.  We don’t have an unlimited amount of space so clogging it up with used tights is not a great option.  This is where biodegradable tights come into their own as they can biodegrade in about 5 years.  Normal tights take 30 to 40 years to biodegrade.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that both will produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.  This is why not everyone loves biodegradable plastics as that ‘biogas’ isn’t harmless.  But we think that if it is going to end up in the bin, it’s best that it decomposes more quickly.

What is more sustainable? Biodegradable.

5. Can they be recycled?

Tights can be recycled, and we actually have our own recycling club to do this!  Or you can put them (clean) into textile recycling banks in the UK.  However, as they can’t be recycled into a shiny new pair of tights we should probably say they can be ‘downcycled’.  They are most commonly shredded and used for stuffing material.  So not 100% perfect but better than sending them to landfill.  At least it extends their useful life and means virgin materials aren’t created for the stuffing!

What is more sustainable? Equal.

Hopefully that helps you decide which direction you want to go in when choosing a more sustainable option.  Ultimately, both are better than sticking with traditional tights.

If you do want to go down the recycled route, then why not check out our 50 Denier and 80 Denier Recycled Tights?  They are made with 3D knitting technology which gives them amazing stretch for a perfect fit – no sagging here!  Plus it makes them more durable and therefore more sustainable!

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