A for Acrylonitrile and a move to Circular Fashion

Due to raised awareness of brutality to animals in order to provide us with clothing, we have sought alternatives. Vegans demand no animals be used to make Fashion Industry products, but non-vegans, whilst enjoying eating meat, have also become aware of the protests against animal cruelty and similarly many do not want such products.

There is now another concern added to this one. We do not want our consumer waste to be harmful to the Planet on which we live.

Watch this shocking video of illegal dumping of synthetic Fast Fashion items in the Atacama Desert, Chile. https://recyclinginternational.com/textiles/chile-concern-at-fast-fashion-imports/47785

Unfortunately, in order to find alternatives to animal sources for fashion items, we now use synthetic fibers, and they are sophisticated and often misleadingly labelled with greenwashing phrases, like ‘recycled’, or ‘vegan’. Using ‘vegan’ is misleading as it has taken decades to get the Fashion Industry to use alternatives to animal skins. But Vegans tend also to be people who care about Cimate Change and Environmental Pressures caused by Human Activity. We have to search for true alternatives which do not involve polluting the environment. We have to be like detectives sorting the truth from the fakery, misleading eco friendly greenwashing marketing and the like. Few products are what they seem.

Let us find out more using an alphabetical listing. Starting with A for Acrylonitrile.

The history of Acrylic fiber is found here.

Like many other synthetic textile fibers, the American DuPont Corporation originally developed acrylic fiber. This firm had already become famous around the world for the development of nylon and the mainstreaming of polyester production, and when acrylic fiber was invented in the 1940s, the world saw this development as simply the next step in DuPont’s rapid ascent to a dominant position in the world’s textile markets.

However, acrylic fiber didn’t become notably popular until the 1950s. It’s possible that the success of DuPont’s other synthetic textiles contributed to this slow mainstreaming of acrylic fiber; this company had already replaced silk with nylon and cotton with polyester, which may have reduced consumer receptivity to this company’s new wool replacement, acrylic.

See my blog about DuPont.

Ineos Nitriles is the 21st century main global supplier of Acrylonitrile: It is the Asian countries who now provide the clothing made from this fiber.

Acrylonitrile-based acrylic fibres, a popular substitute for cotton and wool, are used to make clothing, carpeting and blankets. Rugged and durable, ABS plastic derived from Acrylonitrile is chosen for its toughness and dimensional stability over other engineering resins. Other applications for Acrylonitrile include Nitrile rubber for hoses and gaskets.

Also find

  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic: used in refrigerator liners, medical devices, auto parts, small household appliances, toys, and luggage.
  • Styrene Acrylonitrile (SAN) plastic: used for food containers, tableware, bathroom fittings, and optical fibers..

Widespread use, yet Acrylonitrile has shortcomings:

  • Weatherability (damaged by sunlight)
  • Solvent Resistance
  • Hazardous When Burned
  • Limited Uses in Association with Food Industry
  • Higher Price Than Polystyrene or Polyethylene

Acrylonitrile is manufactured by combining propylene, ammonia, and air in a process called ammoxidation. During ammoxidation, propylene, ammonia and air are fed through a catalyst at a high temperature. … This provides a large catalyst surface area for maximum exposure to the reactants.

Propylene is used mainly to produce polypropylene plastics for injection molding and fibers and for manufacturing cumene (used in phenol production). Propylene is also used to make propylene oxide, acrylic acid, oxo alcohols and isopropanol.

Propylene is probably the oldest petrochemical feedstock in the gas industry. Propylene, also known as 1-propene, is one of the smallest stable unsaturated hydrocarbon molecules used in the gas industry.

The propylene molecule is produced as a co-product of ethylene production through the steam cracking (steam pyrolysis) of hydrocarbon feedstocks. Feedstocks used for steam cracking range from ethane to naphtha and gas oils. Propylene is also produced as a by-product of petroleum refining. Propylene is sold in three separate quality grades: refinery (~70%), chemical (~92-96%) and polymer (99.5%). Chevron Phillips Chemical sells refinery and polymer grades.

The production of ammonia from natural gas is conducted by reacting methane (natural gas) with steam and air, coupled with the subsequent removal of water and CO2. The products of this process are hydrogen and nitrogen, which are the feedstock for the main ammonia synthesis.

Acrylic Fleeces – yes, I have many. I agree what this site says:

What is Fleece?

Fleece is a man-made wonder product, if there is such a thing. Despite being named after the ‘fleece’ coat on a sheep, it’s 100% synthetic and derived from plastic rather than a fluffy sheep’s coat – despite being fuzzy to the touch. The super soft, warm and breathable nature of this magic material makes it perfect for outerwear and all things cosy.

Just as I cannot replace my existing plastic products in my home, I could not keep warm without all these synthetic fibers in my clothing. But no manufacturer has innovated to produce an equally attractive and warm fibre without resorting to harmful petrochemical processes.

The Grangemouth Refinery in Scotland is a vital part of the infrastructure here. Ineos is a massive global company with its petrochemical activities. Whilst we are being told petrochemicals are bad for the environment, the industry is booming.

Petrochemical facilities are energy-intensive and dump an enormous amount of carbon pollution into the air. … After they are produced, petrochemical products continue to fuel the climate crisis. For example, nearly 12% of plastic waste is incinerated, releasing more greenhouse gases as well as dangerous toxins

There is no doubt there is no forthcoming replacement for all the billions of items we create using petrochemicals. But we consumers can question whether we should be purchasing fabrics which have been created with the help of the petrochemical industry. We can educate ourselves about Circular Fashion and ‘demand designing waste and pollution out of our clothes’, suggested in the book (as shown below) 20 years ago. We are behind the curve. We need to get ahead of it.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002)


Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Published in 2002, Cradle to Cradle is widely acknowledged as one of the most important environmental manifestos of our time.

And just as I upload this blog I see a bill in the US being presented:

Senate Bill S7428

2021-2022 Legislative Session

Requires fashion retail sellers and manufacturers to disclose environmental and social due diligence policies; establishes a community benefit fund

I would urge all US citizens to support this bill, but act independently in your judgements when buying products with poor environmental and human rights histories. Please send a message of disgust to the offending companies by avoiding further purchases. For more information click here.

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see https://www.abebooks.co.uk/products/isbn/9780749427917
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