New fabric samples made for Lululemon are similar to the proprietary fabric that the corporate makes use of to make high-end yoga pants. However the fabric is the primary to be made with recycled carbon emissions. The athletic model partnered with LanzaTech, a biotech startup that turns air pollution into ethanol to be used in gas or chemical substances—on this case, the feedstock for polyester.
The corporate compares its tech to a brewery: As a substitute of yeast making beer, microbe-filled vats convert air pollution into ethanol. “This specific ethanol comes from a metal mill in China, the place we have now a industrial plant working which ferments principally carbon monoxide fuel and converts that to ethanol,” says Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “Then we are able to take that ethanol and make something that we would like.” On the metal mill, if the carbon monoxide wasn’t captured, it could be burned and launched as CO2 air pollution.
The corporate labored with a chemical companion known as India Glycols to show the ethanol into monoethylene glycol (MEG), a chemical usually made from fossil fuels. One other companion, the textile producer Far Japanese New Century, used the MEG to make polyester. When made into Lululemon’s fabric, it’s precisely the identical because the model made from fossil fuels. “From our present samples, the fabric has the identical properties as conventional polyester, even when utilized in our most complicated fabric,” says Ted Dagnese, chief provide chain officer at Lululemon.
In the meanwhile, it prices extra to make the fabric than it does to make polyester from crude oil or pure fuel. “We’re taking ethanol to ethylene, and this fossil provide chain begins with ethylene that at present is tremendous low-cost due to fracking,” Holmgren says. “So we’re type of including a step. And until there’s a tipping charge or a carbon tax, it’s going to take a very long time to get to price aggressive as a result of we have now an additional processing step.” However, she says, the corporate is engaged on a brand new artificial biology course of that may go instantly from fuel to MEG. When that works, will probably be price aggressive.
For Lululemon, the brand new fabric is a technique to shrink its carbon footprint. The corporate hasn’t but introduced which merchandise the fabric could also be utilized in. However by partnering with LanzaTech at an early stage, alongside with corporations like Unilever, which is using recycled emissions in laundry detergent, Lululemon helps transfer the tech ahead.
“They know they’ll’t get there from right here until they actually push and pull corporations like ours and companion. In any other case, there isn’t going to be something, until they’re prepared to take this danger,” Holmgren says, including that finally recycled emissions might be used broadly to switch petrochemicals. “I see a future the place we don’t have to make use of contemporary fossil carbon to make all of the issues we use in our day by day lives.”