Spanish fast fashion brand Zara last week released a series of limited clothing collection and drew public attention with one pink dress sourcing in part from collected carbon emissions. The launch marks one of the company’s steps toward a more sustainable future.
According to the UN Environment Program, the fashion industry accounts for 2% to 8% of worldwide carbon emissions. The industry’s reliance on plastics for fabrics and textiles is a major contributor to the problem. To reduce those emissions, several retailers, such as Zara, have experimented with new products and supply chain changes.
To become more environmentally friendly, Zara has teamed up with LanzaTech, a US-based industrial chemical company, to develop new textile technology. The collaboration has led to the creation of new dresses, which contain 20% of a unique polyester produced using a chemical derived from industrial carbon emissions.
Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, revealed the fabric’s origins. The company operates a plant at a steel mill to readily capture carbon-monoxide emissions and inject them into a reactor, a process known as gas fermentation, she explained. Then, within the reactor, a specific strain of bacteria consumes the pollutants and generate ethanol.
LanzaTech’s ethanol, which is chemically equivalent to ethanol obtained from fossil fuels, is then transported to companies that convert it into other chemicals used in polyester fabrics or other items such as plastic bottles.
However, it is questioned whether such an emerging technology scale and whether it can help curb the climate crisis. In response to these doubts, Holmgren revealed that in addition to two plants in China, seven other plants are set to open globally over the next few years.
LanzaTech have allegedly produced more than 136 million liters of ethanol since the beginning of 2021, which is comparable to removing 150,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By the end of 2023, it hopes to have produced 454 million liters. While the current facilities only use carbon monoxide, there are plans to expand and employ carbon dioxide as well.