Waste to Energy

Lululemon plans to recycle carbon emissions into fabric

Lululemon and LanzaTech have pioneered the world’s first fabric sourced from carbon emissions.

The athletic brand has joined forces with biotech company LanzaTech, a start-up renowned for converting pollution into ethanol for fuel or chemicals-in this case, feedstock for polyester.

Textile fabric produced by Lululemon in this form is similar in consistency to the fabric used in their yoga pants, the only difference being that the source material of the polyester in question is ethanol derived from pollution-eating micro-organisms.

The brand likens its production method to commercial beer brewing, the only difference being that the huge vats in their facilities contain microbes rather yeast, which basically ferment carbon monoxide gas and converts it into ethanol.

Carbon sourced ranges from atmospheric carbon dioxide and gasified agricultural and household waste to industrial emissions.

India Glycol, one of Lululemon’s partners, uses said ethanol to produce monoethylene glycol (MEG), a chemical made from fossil fuels with a wide variety of uses, ranging from antifreeze in automobile cooling systems to the generation of explosives. Another partner, textile manufacturer Far Eastern New Century, uses it to develop polyester fibre.

Capturing and recycling carbon monoxide before it has the chance to turn into carbon dioxide serves to limit both air pollution as well as prevent energy loss in the polyester production cycle, occasioned by the use of fossil fuels.

Lululemon reports that its sustainable polyester has the same properties as its conventional counterpart.

In a statement, Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, said: “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.’”

An added benefit to the process is that the polyesters can be gasified and fermented at the end of their product lifecycle, serving to underscore a circular economy.

As of yet, the production method is not economically viable as it adds an extra step in between the conversion of carbon emissions to MEG, first transforming it into ethylene.

Chief supply chain officer of Lululemon, Ted Dagnese said, “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.”