Athletic apparel company lululemon athletica and Australian environmental technology startup Samsara Eco announced the production of a lululemon Swiftly Tech long-sleeve top using enzymatically recycled nylon 6,6, marking the first-ever product to be created using this form of circular solution for the difficult to recycle material.

Nylon 6,6 is one of the most commonly used plastics in the textile industry for the production of clothing, sportswear and outerwear fabrics, and accounts for a substantial portion of the materials used by lululemon, with benefits including durability and toughness, which also make it difficult to recycle.

Launched in 2021, Samsara Eco uses enzymatic technology to recycle plastic, using enzymes to turn complex plastics back into their original chemical building blocks, enabling their re-use to produce new virgin-grade plastics without relying on fossil fuels.

The company launched a partnership with lululemon last year as its first textile partner, and worked with lululemon to pioneer a new technology to extract nylon 6,6 from end-of-life textiles. According to the companies, the manufacturing process to create the new shirt is completed within hours and at a low temperature.

Calling the announcement a “giant leap for the future of sustainable fashion and circularity, Samsara Eco CEO and Founder Paul Riley said that the process “has the potential to save tens of millions of tonnes of CO2 entering our environment every year.”

Riley added:

“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.”

Nylon is lululemon’s largest procured material by weight, representing 37% of materials used in its products in 2021. As part of its sustainable materials goals, lululemon has set targets to launch alternative nylon solutions by 2025, and to source 100% renewable or recycled content nylon for its products by 2030.

Yogendra Dandapure, Vice President, Raw Materials Innovation at lululemon, said:

“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. 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.”