Velcro has many practical uses in sportswear, shoes, bags, and other types of clothing.
But it is also frequently used in the manufacturing and automotive industries as well.
NASA was one of the first major users of velcro, using it for flight suits because of its superior adherence qualities.
However, since it is so frequently used, it leads us to wonder if velcro itself is being manufactured in a way that is eco-friendly.
Is velcro being created using eco-friendly methods?
And can it be disposed of in an eco-friendly way when you no longer have use for it?
The truth is that Velcro is made using synthetic materials. Generally, anything made with synthetic materials is not eco-friendly.
In this article, we’ll look at how velcro is made, including why it was invented in the first place and what it is made of.
We’ll also explore specific characteristics of velcro to determine if any part of it is eco-friendly.
How Is Velcro Made?
Let’s start from the beginning: the idea for velcro stemmed from a Swiss inventor who was taking a walk with his dog.
During the walk, Georges de Mestral noticed that cockleburs were sticking to his pants.
He was having a difficult time removing the cockleburs from his clothing, so he studied one of them under a microscope and noticed that it was covered in tiny hooks.
The tiny hooks were looping through the fabric of his pants. Since they were so hard to remove, he wondered if he could recreate the same idea into an effective clothing fastener.
This led to the invention of velcro in the 1950s. Today, velcro is manufactured in a factory.
It is made of two separate sides, with one side containing hooks while the other side is made up of tiny loops.
Both sides of velcro are made of nylon. Nylon used to make the hooks are molded under a heat lamp, while the loops are made of matted nylon fibers.
Pressing the two sides together allows them to stick to each other in the same way that the cockleburs stuck to Mestral’s pants.
What Does Velcro Stand For?
The name velcro is a combination of the French words velour, meaning a resemblance to velvet, and croché, meaning hook.
The name describes the appearance of velcro, as the looped side has a texture similar to that of velvet.
The hooked side resembles crochet hooks in both their appearance and the way that they hook to the fabric.
Is Velcro Plastic?
Remember that velcro is made primarily of nylon.
Nylon is made from petroleum and can be melted and molded into different types of fibers and shapes.
The basic molecules that make up nylon can also be mixed with other things in order to give it specific properties.
That’s why nylon is used to make some types of clothing, toothbrushes, rope, and parachutes in addition to velcro.
Plastics are also made from petroleum and other chemicals and have similar compositions to that of nylon.
Plastics come in many different forms and are used for a variety of applications.
Since nylon is made from the same chemicals as other types of plastic, nylon is essentially a type of plastic.
It is often referred to as an “engineering plastic” since it can withstand heavy use and wear and tear.
Nylon is a very strong and stiff type of plastic, which is why it was an ideal material to use for velcro.
Being made of nylon enables Velcro to be able to adhere to all types of materials, including textiles and metal without wearing down over time.
Is Velcro Eco Friendly?
Nylon is a synthetic material, which means that it is created by chemical means.
Being synthetic usually means that the main product used to make it is petroleum, which comes from crude oil, or other chemicals.
While crude oil is found in nature, it has to be collected by drilling.
Drilling can cause a lot of problems for the environment, including habitat destruction and pollution among other things.
Once the crude oil is collected, it also has to be processed in order to create petroleum products and plastic.
This process uses a lot of energy and also has the potential to cause pollution of air and water, as well as the disposal of hazardous waste into the environment.
Basically, neither the collection nor the creation of synthetic products such as nylon is eco-friendly.
Since velcro is made of nylon and is essentially a type of plastic, it is not eco-friendly either.
Is Velcro Sustainable?
According to the Velcro company, they operate under sustainable manufacturing practices.
Some examples of sustainable practices that they have in place include but are not limited to:
- Removing solvents from their processes
- Using recycled water to cool down some equipment
- Diverting over half of their waste from landfills in favor of recycling or reusing
- Minimizing energy consumption
Their website even states that they have over 1,300 environmental initiatives and are certified for their environmental management system.
But even though they try to operate under sustainable practices, a lot of velcro products are still created using nylon or other synthetic materials.
Synthetic materials are not sustainable because they come from non-renewable resources.
That means that the products used to create could eventually run out because they can’t be replaced at the same rate as renewable resources.
And even though the original Velcro company tries to use sustainable methods, it’s hard to say whether other companies that produce similar products do as well.
It’s worth noting that when velcro was originally created, it was made with cotton. Cotton is more sustainable than nylon.
But, velcro that was made with cotton didn’t adhere well and proved to be impractical.
That’s why nylon was used instead. Being made of nylon means that velcro is more durable and serves its purpose better than if it was made from cotton.
The Velcro company does claim to be looking for ways to develop products that minimize negative impacts on the environment.
Hopefully, manufacturers of velcro can find a material that is just as practical but more sustainable than synthetic nylon that they can make their product out of.
Is Velcro Biodegradable?
Since velcro is made of synthetic plastics, it is not biodegradable. Plastics like nylon can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
Even if they eventually did biodegrade, some of the products and chemicals that are used to make velcro can be hazardous to the environment if they are left to biodegrade.
Is Velcro Compostable?
Just like velcro isn’t biodegradable, it is not compostable either. Plastics don’t compost easily, but you wouldn’t want them to anyway.
Since compost is usually used by humans to create organic matter and used to improve the soil, composting plastic would actually have the opposite effect.
It could be harmful to the soil and plants that grow there.
Is Velcro Organic?
Velcro is not organic since it is made using chemicals and synthetic materials.
The term organic usually refers to natural resources like crops that are grown without the use of chemicals.
Since velcro does not come from a plant-based source and is created using chemicals, it can not be considered organic.
Is Velcro Toxic?
Although velcro is made with chemicals, the chemicals that are used to create it are considered to be non-hazardous to humans.
But, that’s with the assumption that you’re going to use velcro as intended and not try to melt or burn it.
But even though the chemicals used aren’t hazardous to humans, the process used to create velcro could pose hazards to the environment, especially if it isn’t created responsibly and waste isn’t disposed of properly.
While velcro isn’t directly toxic to humans, the creation of it could cause some long-term effects with the potential to harm both humans and the environment.
Is Velcro Flammable?
Velcro has the potential to produce small sparks of electricity, especially when it is unfastened.
And being made of a type of plastic means that velcro is more flammable than other materials due to the chemicals used to make plastic.
In fact, there were large concerns about the flammability of velcro with regard to the fire that happened on the Apollo 1 spacecraft.
While investigators were unable to pinpoint an exact cause of the fire, they know that it was caused by an electrical spark.
It was mentioned earlier that NASA was one of the largest users of velcro when it was first created.
There were large quantities of velcro found in the spacecraft when it caught on fire.
Although velcro wasn’t officially determined to be the cause of the fire, it certainly might have caused the fire to be worse than what it could have been.
The large amount of oxygen inside the spacecraft certainly didn’t help either.
But the point is that the Apollo 1 fire led the way for change in the way that velcro was produced.
NASA reduced their use of flammable velcro, which meant that manufacturers needed to find a way to make velcro less flammable.
This led to the development of flame-retardant velcro.
Flame-retardant velcro is now used in automobiles, planes, trains, and spacecraft in order to decrease chances of a serious fire.
Is Velcro Waterproof?
Nylon is generally water-resistant, so velcro will hold up if it is submerged in water.
But the Velcro company also makes industrial strength velcro which is designed for use outdoors.
Industrial strength velcro is designed to be more heavy-duty than regular velcro. It should be able to withstand all weather conditions without diminishing in quality.
Sometimes other materials like polyester or vinyl are used along with nylon to increase the durability and water-resistant properties of velcro.
Is Velcro Washable?
Most types of velcro fasteners can be washed or dry cleaned.
The adhesive used to attach velcro to fabrics should hold up through repeated washing as long as it was allowed plenty of time to properly adhere.
However, when washing velcro, it is recommended that you fasten the hooks and loops together securely.
Lint and loose threads can stick to velcro, so fastening it can prevent things from getting stuck to it when it is washed.
Can Velcro Be Recycled?
We mentioned that the Velcro company tries to be as sustainable as possible in their production of velcro, including recycling as much as possible.
While most types of plastic can be recycled, there are some that can’t.
Since velcro is made from nylon, and small amounts of polyester and vinyl, they were finding it difficult to completely recycle velcro.
The vinyl was easy to extract and recycle, but what was left over was a mixture of nylon and polyester which was difficult to separate and transport.
The Velcro company worked with Partners in Project Green to try to find a way to make Velcro and its components more recyclable.
They finally found a company that could make use of the nylon and polyester mixture, using it to help create recycled plastic lumber.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy for you and me to recycle velcro because we don’t have access to all of the resources that larger companies have.
Most municipal recycling programs don’t accept velcro as a recyclable material due to the amount of energy and money that would have to be spent to break it down to be used again.
How To Dispose Of Velcro Properly
Since velcro can’t be recycled by you and me, the best way to dispose of it is to just throw it away with the rest of your waste.
While this is not the most ideal solution because it adds more trash to landfills, there really isn’t any other way we can dispose of it.
Most municipal waste management programs suggest throwing velcro away with the rest of the garbage.
Of course, if the velcro is attached to clothing or another textile and is still in good condition, you can always donate the clothing to an organization that will provide it for others who could use it.
3 Eco Friendly Alternatives To Velcro
1. Velcro Brand ECO Collection
In addition to their standard velcro products, the Velcro company offers a more eco-friendly version.
The ECO stick on tape itself is made from 30% recycled materials, while the packaging is made from 100% recycled materials.
They also offer a few other products in their ECO line that are designed primarily for use in the textiles and footwear industry.
2. Natulon Zipper by YKK
The YKK Company makes zippers and snaps for clothing and other textiles, and one of their eco-friendly products goes by the name of Natulon.
YKK’s Natulon zippers are made from plastic bottles and recycled polyester.
In addition to Natulon zippers, they also create zippers made from organic cotton or other plant based materials.
They are a good eco-friendly fastener choice that isn’t velcro.
3. Eco Snap Fasteners by Prym Fashion
Another alternative fastener to velcro is a snap fastener.
The Prym Fashion Group specializes in snap fasteners and now offers two eco-friendly versions.
The ecoWhite snap fasteners are made from recycled plastic bottles and reduce the use of crude oil, while the ecoGreen fasteners are made from plant-based sources and are biodegradable.
Velcro is made from nylon, which is a form of plastic and a synthetic material.
The Velcro company tries to manufacture velcro in a way that is as eco-friendly as possible, but the materials used to make velcro don’t come from eco-friendly means.
For a widely used product such as velcro, it’s hard to find a material to use that is eco-friendly but still practical and durable.
But as more companies are able to create other forms of eco-friendly fasteners, hopefully the development of a more eco-friendly version of velcro is not too far off in the future.
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