Why Biodegradable Tights Are The Revolutionary Wardrobe Essential

by Sophie Billi-Hardwick

Did you know that it is impossible to recycle a used pair of tights into a new one? Each year, 2 billion pairs of tights are produced and discarded (this represents 7000 tonnes of waste in landfills in France alone), and the harsh reality is that they will take between 40 to 100 years to decompose. So Billi London, the world’s first biodegradable tights, was born out of our own frustration and realisation of how damaging binning two pairs of tights a month is for the environment. 

The separation of the two materials (nylon and elastane) once combined together is technically impossible meaning tights made with recycled nylon won’t improve the landfill waste issues caused by the tights industry. Therefore a laddered pair of tights made with recycled nylon that’s then thrown away will pollute like any other tights made with virgin nylon and elastane. 

The problem is that very few are aware of this and when consumers see, on tights packaging, the mention ‘recycled tights’, most will assume they are made from old tights. But unfortunately, the tights industry is not yet a circular industry, meaning that we can't produce a new pair of tights from an old one. 

The recycling of tights into another product is possible though, but very limited.  Tights can be collected and reintroduced into other industries such as insulation panels and padding-type products for homes and cars. However, the act of bringing tights into a collection center for used textiles is rare and not yet acquired: only 10% of cases recorded. 

Of course, recycled nylon helps to reduce and prevent the use of raw materials by using post-industrial nylon waste and nylon coming from fishnets, and it is a step towards a more sustainable environment. But in our opinion, this waste management solution is only postponing the waste issue in the tights industry instead of tackling it at its core. 

Less than 1% of clothing was recycled into new clothing in 2017. This number clearly shows that large-scale clothing recycling infrastructure is extremely far behind other industries. It is also worth noting that in some instances, the technology behind recycling requires the usage of chemical products adding further complexity to an already challenging topic. Moreover, recycling very often deteriorates the quality of the fibre, therefore reducing the possibility of recycling it indefinitely: there will come a point where the quality of the nylon will be too poor and it will have to be discarded completely. 

This is why we are championing biodegradability as an innovative solution to reduce the harmful environmental impact of tights.

Biodegradability was already an existing and successful solution in the fashion industry , but it was never used in the tights industry.  So since 2019, we have been working with fiber experts to bring this innovative solution to the tights industry. 

And like any new innovation, it required a lot of trials and errors and we've been through multiple rounds of prototypes to get it right! We’ve worked hand in hand with our partner in Italy who worked so hard to ensure we could find the correct weaving technique offering premium, durable and comfortable enhanced biodegradable tights. 

There is definitely a general increase in awareness of how unsustainable the fashion industry is and its impact on climate change.  Our role since launching the brand has been to educate women and men on the impacts that tights specifically have on the planet, and change their rapport with tights from being a disposable afterthought to a sustainable and durable fashion essential.  

With Billi London, we want to put an end to tight waste that keeps on growing in landfills. By wearing Billi London tights, you can contribute to reducing the time that a pair of tights pollute the environment in landfill by more than 80% as they will biodegrade in a record time of 5 years in landfill instead of 40 to 100 years for traditional tights. Plus, they will decompose into organic matter (biomass) and biogas creating renewable resources,  and participate in the transition towards a circular economy model.  What’s not to love?!


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