Last year, L’Oréal has teamed up with carbon recycling company biotech LanzaTech and fuel company Total to produce the first cosmetic plastic bottle made from industrial carbon emissions. Today, the scope of possibilities continues to widen for applications intended to reduce the carbon footprint of consumer goods.
Designing carbon-neutral clothing and accessories no longer belongs simply to the realm of science fiction. In fact, now, with just a few clicks on the web, it is possible to buy glasses, bags, and sleeves for smartphones and laptops that are made from greenhouse gases!
Taking inspiration from nature
AirCarbon: that’s the name given to this carbon-negative biomaterial that California start-up Newlight Technologies developed over more than a decade. It is produced by naturally occurring microorganisms in the ocean — now also found in large tanks filled with salt water mixed with methane in the company’s factory — that feed primarily on air and greenhouse gases, converted in their cells into polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB).
It is this biodegradable polymer, "a material made by life that bonds us to the natural world," that is now being used to make luxury accessories under the name AirCarbon. The start-up specifies that the biomaterial can be melted and then cooled, opening the door to infinite possibilities for making fibres, sheet, or even solid parts.
AirCarbon could replace synthetic plastic and animal leather, and be recycled endlessly.
Fashion giants are paying attention to this innovation; Nike concluded a partnership with Newlight Technologies at the end of August to explore "the use of AirCarbon in a variety of applications" in order to reduce its carbon footprint while continuing to offer technical products to consumers. A collaboration that could quickly give rise to carbon-neutral accessories, even sneakers, neutral, made from this new biomaterial, and stamped with the famous swoosh.
Sustainable luxury at your fingertips?
But Newlight Technologies does not simply sell their biodegradable polymer to fashion brands or manufacturers. The company’s strength also lies in its ability to offer its own accessories made from AirCarbon. Through its Covalent brand, Newlight Technologies retails carbon-neutral sunglasses, tote bags, purses, small leather goods, and smartphone and laptop pouches.
The brand makes all the information related to the carbon footprint of the products and their manufacture available to the public. For example, the Poppy tote bag, handmade in California, was designed from 51% AirCarbon, 14% bio-derived materials and 35% synthetic ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). A product with a negative carbon footprint, the bag would have diverted 16.7 kilograms of CO2 equivalent from the air through its manufacture. However, being kind to our planet will require spending 480 dollars (approximately 413 euros).
This new material adds to an already rich list of innovative and environmentally friendly materials intended to replace oil-based plastics. However, it provides an additional benefit as it could allow several industries to significantly reduce their environmental footprint.