Producing nylon from plastic waste. CDP supports Aquafil innovation

A more sustainable nylon production model thanks to CDP

Plastics played a leading role in the industrialisation process in Italy after the Second World War. Since the 1960s, items made of nylon, resins and synthetic fibres have made their way into the daily lives of consumers, thanks to Giulio Natta, a Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry and the bold efforts of several companies.

Aquafil has believed in the potential of this material since it began operating. Founded in Arco di Trento in 1965 and now employing 3,000 people, Aquafil operates 16 plants in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and Thailand, confirming its presence on three continents.

Polymers and nylon fibres are used in the manufacture of carpets and other synthetic floor coverings, clothing and plastic moulding. These are the main products of the Trento-based group, which has been listed on the Star segment of the stock exchange since December 2017 and can now boast of being a leader in its supply chain, with a turnover of almost 550 million euros.

As well as size, Aquafil also means sustainability. An innate capacity for innovation, combined with concern for the future of the planet, resulted in a new strategy which then became the basis for the Group's production line. Corporate ethics based entirely on circularity. In fact, plastic waste is the raw material for Aquafil’s products rather than direct petroleum derivatives.

This is the case with Econyl, a nylon thread made from recycled fishing nets, synthetic fabric scraps and industrial plastic waste. This is used as a raw material in the production of clothes, including designer labels. Econyl is an example of a circular economy. Using recycled materials reduces environmental impact, saves energy, cleans the seabed - as was the case with the 2 tonne fishing net recovered off the Aeolian Islands - and the consumer gets a quality product.

It should be noted that, according to UNEP and FAO reports, 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are dumped in the world's seas every year, accounting for about 10% of the plastic waste in the oceans. Several protected marine species such as dolphins, sea turtles and sperm whales are seriously threatened by this waste.

Aquafil's goal of making a completely green plastic required a major research and development effort, as well as financial resources. Cassa Depositi e Prestiti supported this commitment with two transactions totalling 40 million euros. These were essential in increasing the Group's investment capacity in innovation, automation and new technologies as Giulio Bonazzi, President and CEO of Aquafil, explains in the video where we look back at what is a genuine success story.

This transaction is fully in line with the philosophy of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti's 2019-2021 Business Plan, which aims to support major innovation projects developed by Italian companies. Especially if they are coupled with a real respect for environmental sustainability. The competitiveness of the Italian manufacturing industry on international markets is a driving force for the country’s growth and employment opportunities. This mission is fully shared by CDP.

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