Biotechnology company LanzaTech partnered with lululemon athletica inc., an athletic apparel company, to create the world’s first yarn and fabric using recycled carbon emissions that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere as pollution. LanzaTech uses nature-based solutions to produce ethanol from waste carbon sources, and is working with partners India Glycols Limited (IGL) and Far Eastern New Century to convert ethanol to polyester.
Recycling carbon is a fundamental element of the circular economy, which will keep fossil carbon in the ground, reducing pollution and fossil fuel usage when used to make polyester. With a lower carbon footprint, this innovation could transform lululemon’s products and the apparel industry.
Jennifer Holmgren, CEO, LanzaTech said, “We must radically change how we source, utilize and dispose of carbon. Carbon recycling enables companies like lululemon to continue to move away from virgin fossil resources, bring circularity to their products, and achieve their climate change goals around carbon reduction. We call this being ‘CarbonSmart.’”
According to Ted Dagnese, Chief Supply Chain Officer, lululemon, “lululemon is committed to making products that are better in every way – building a healthier future for ourselves, for our communities, and for our planet. We know sustainable innovation will play a key role in the future of retail and apparel, and we are excited to be at the forefront of an innovative technology. Our partnership with LanzaTech will help lululemon deliver on our Impact Agenda goals to make 100% of our products with sustainable materials and end-of- use solutions, moving us toward a circular ecosystem by 2030.”
LanzaTech’s process sources carbon from different types of feedstocks, from industrial emissions to syngas from gasified agricultural or household waste (including textile waste) and atmospheric CO2. The gas stream is fermented by LanzaTech’s special microorganisms into ethanol or other chemicals. The process is similar to traditional fermentation, except instead of sugars and yeast, it uses the carbon contained in waste gases and the microorganisms.
In October, lululemon released its first Impact Agenda, outlining its multi-year strategies to address critical social and environmental issues with 12 goals to drive progress. The partnership with LanzaTech is one of the many ways lululemon is focused on bringing new technologies to the business.
The process of capturing and recycling carbon before it is released in the atmosphere is an innovation that LanzaTech has brought to airlines, home care companies, and now textile production. Polyester fiber is one of the most popular synthetic fibers which commonly uses petroleum-based feedstock. Using FENC®TOPGREEN®Bio3-PET fiber made from LanzaTech’s ethanol shows FENC’s and lululemon’s commitments to sustainable innovation. This waste-gas-based polyester possesses not only the same appearance but also the same properties and functionality of virgin polyester.
Industrial emissions, such as those from a steel mill, would otherwise be combusted and emitted as GHGs and particulate emissions harmful to the health of our planet and our communities. By capturing these and reusing the carbon to make yarn, the finished garments not only have a lower carbon footprint but ensure community pollution levels are reduced. If these chemicals are made into new products such as textiles, once these products reach the end of their useful life and become waste, they can be gasified and fermented by LanzaTech’s process. In this sense, the pathway promotes circularity, keeping the carbon in the material cycle.
“Partnering with technology leaders and other reputed companies is a great way to create the much needed sustainable business models which are so important to help us deal with the major challenges like climate change that we face,” commented Mr U S Bhartia, Chairman of IGL. Rupark Sarswat, CEO, IGL said, “We take pride in being part of this exciting collaboration for a better planet and what better way than to capture emissions and use innovative green technologies to create useful CarbonSmart products.”
Dr. Fanny Liao, EVP of RD &BD, FENC said, “Since initially connecting LanzaTech’s Taiwanese joint-venture setup with a pilot plant in Taiwan, I believed this waste-gas-based polyester formation would be a sustainable solution for the polyester industry. We are happy to team up with IGL and lululemon to complete the supply chain for this historical project, and continue working with LanzaTech towards our common goal for a better Earth.”