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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Lululemon’s Enzymatically Recycled Nylon 6,6 Advancing Circular Fashion

The brand has partnered with Samsara Eco to extract nylon 6,6 from end-of-life textiles, demonstrating the potential to create a fully circular ecosystem for apparel.

lululemon, in partnership with Australian tech startup Samsara Eco, has unveiled the world’s first enzymatically recycled nylon 6,6 product — marking a key milestone in textile-to-textile recycling and lululemon’s work to create a circular textile ecosystem. Using recycled nylon 6,6 made with Samsara Eco’s technology, lululemon has created samples of its popular Swiftly Tech Long-Sleeve Top.

Nylon 6,6 is one of the two most common types of nylon used for textiles and plastics, and one used in many lululemon performance-gear products. Today, recycled nylon is generally made from post-industrial material waste, and recycled alternatives that align with lululemon's product performance standards are only available in limited quantities. Samsara Eco’s technology uses engineered enzymes to break down nylon 6,6’s complex polymers into simple monomers, which can then be remade into nylon 6,6 that can then be turned back into apparel.

“Until now, textile-to-textile nylon 6,6 has been unrecyclable. The samples we have created with lululemon represent a world-first breakthrough for the future of textile waste. Our work with lululemon shows the potential to give clothes an infinite life,” said Paul Riley, CEO and founder of Samsara Eco.

Enzymatic recycling is becoming a go-to solution for extending the useful life of petroleum-based materials, particularly in textiles and plastic packaging: French biochemistry pioneer Carbios joined forces with a consortium of consumer-goods companies — L’Oréal, Nestlé Waters, PepsiCo and Suntory Beverage & Food Europe — and in 2021, unveiled the world’s first food-grade PET plastic bottles produced entirely from enzymatically recycled plastic. In 2022, Carbios went on to partner with OnPatagoniaPUMA and Salomon to develop solutions that do the same for their polyester products; and Stella McCartney partnered with biological-recycling startup Protein Evolution to process leftover mixed-textile waste fabric (primarily, polyester and nylon) from Stella McCartney collections and transform them into good-as-new, infinitely recyclable fibers.

Now, the lululemon-Samsara Eco collaboration is further demonstrating a way to reduce not only dependence on these ubiquitous, fossil-based materials but the impacts of both their production and their waste — by closing the loop and keeping them in use indefinitely.

“The lululemon Swiftly top samples go beyond material innovation — they represent the exciting possibilities and impact that can be achieved through collaboration and cross-industry partnership,” said Yogendra Dandapure, VP of Raw Materials Innovation at lululemon. “This breakthrough not only signals a turning point for sustainable innovation in apparel, but for all industries looking to shift towards more circular models. We look forward to continuing to work with Samsara Eco to help scale this new technology in the months and years ahead.”

Over 90 percent of the nylon used in each of the lululemon Swiftly top samples is produced using Samsara Eco’s enzymatic-recycling process; and the samples offer the same fit, feel and quality of existing lululemon products. The Swiftly samples also illustrate the company’s end-to-end vision of circularity by taking lululemon nylon apparel at the end-of-life stage and combining it with other non-textile materials to create recycled nylon for use in new lululemon products.

“We’ve started with nylon 6,6, but this sets the trajectory of what’s possible for recycling across a range of industries as we continue expanding our library of plastic-eating enzymes,” Riley added. “This is an incredibly significant moment for the future of sustainable fashion and circularity.”

This milestone in lululemon’s multi-year collaboration with Samsara Eco adds to the list of ways — including introducing plant-based nylon and developing polyester made from captured carbon emissions — that lululemon is working to make 100 percent of products with preferred materials and end-of-use solutions by 2030.