The gradually rising levels of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as a result of human activity has been at the center of many economic and political discussions within and among nations worldwide. Efforts are being made to reduce carbon emissions, primarily because CO2 emissions contribute to the ever-growing and worsening effects of climate change. Annually, around 40 billion metric tons are emitted globally, with around 35 billion of them coming from fossil fuel and industry emissions.
Thankfully, innovation from a biotechnology company based in the United States opens up the opportunity to reuse otherwise waste carbon into fabrics, reducing emissions, and expanding the textile industry’s capacity towards sustainable production.
LanzaTech, based in Illinois, USA, is collaborating with Lululemon Athletica to create the first yarn and fabric from recycled carbon emissions. The biotech company is working hand in hand with India Glycols Limited (IGL) and Taiwan’s Far Eastern New Century (FENC) to transform ethanol, produced by having special microorganisms “ferment” gasified carbon, into polyester. This carbon is acquired from a wide range of sources, from industrial emissions to atmospheric CO2.
So far, LanzaTech has produced 20 million gallons of ethanol from 120,000 metric tons of CO2 from its first commercial-scale gas fermentation plant. The polyester fiber created from the waste carbon holds the same appearance, properties, and functionality as virgin polyester.
Reintroducing otherwise waste carbon to the production cycle would be helpful in reducing emissions, considering that the fashion industry contributes to 10 percent of annual global carbon emissions. Considering that fast fashion leaves a large carbon footprint and the fact that polyester, which accounts for half of the overall fiber market and around 80 percent of synthetics fiber, is fossil fuel-based, carbon recycling through biotechnology could go a long way in terms of sustainability and lessening the environmental impact of human activity.
*Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines*