A world first was made possible thanks to the collaboration between Lanzatech, Total and L'Oréal, three manufacturers who have joined forces to develop a circular and sustainable plastics economy. To achieve this, each of them played a key role in a 3-step process.
Converting pollution into packaging
First, Lanzatech, the world leader in gas fermentation, recovers industrial gases emitted by steelworks, refineries and even urban waste treatment facilities and converts the carbon monoxide into ethanol using a biological process.
The ethanol can then be used as a fuel and Total takes the next step in the process. The oil company "converts the ethanol into ethylene before polymerizing it into polyethylene that has the same technical characteristics as its fossil counterpart".
In the next step, L'Oréal then uses its know-how to transform the polyethylene into a plastic bottle which will be used in its cosmetic products. As polyethylene is recyclable, the bottle will be recyclable too.
A sustainable plastic packaging solution
Although the process has been successfully tested, only a few kilos of recycled carbon have been produced so far. The three partners intend to pursue this new avenue for recovering industrial carbon emissions by setting up an industrial production unit in Europe in 2024 or 2025. Jacques Playe, L'Oréal's Packaging & Development Director said: "With this innovation converting carbon emissions into polyethylene, we aim to develop a new sustainable packaging solution. We have the ambition to use this sustainable material in our bottles of shampoo and conditioner by 2024".
Creating packaging using industrial carbon emissions could not only turn a source of pollution into a useful product, it could also reduce the use of fossil resources and the carbon footprint. Moreover, recycling these carbon emissions could be an interesting alternative to producing ethanol from sugar cane since the process does not consume agricultural land.