The French start-up Fairbrics, a pioneer in the field, wants to capture the CO2 released by manufacturers to transform it while using molecular chemistry into polyester spools for the clothing industry.
To that end, it will establish a factory in Antwerp, a pioneering project that should be up and running by mid-2024. The project is revolutionary if you know that polyester today makes up more than 65% of fibers used in the textile and apparel industry and that the fashion industry contributes to up to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
70% less carbon impact
In the pilot plant in Antwerp, Fairbrics wants to recover CO2 from the petrochemical platform in its port. Using molecular chemistry, it will thus convert CO2 waste into polyester fabric.
The captured CO2 is reacted with a catalyst and solvent to generate chemicals used for polyester synthesis. These chemicals are polymerized to create polyester pellets, then spun into yarn and fabric.
“When we compare our product with a fiber currently on the market, we note that this technology allows us to reduce the carbon impact by 70%,” says Fairbrics’ president Benoît Illy. This allows them to the technology for reducing the carbon impact by 70%.
“Dressing is a primary need. Polyester, a synthetic fiber usually derived from petroleum or coal, can be produced very efficiently, using very little water and resources, unlike cotton, which is a natural fiber but has a disastrous environmental impact.”
€22 million raised
According to Fairbrics, the cost will be close to the production of petroleum-based materials, between the same price and twice as expensive. “Brands have told us that this is acceptable, as there is an environmental benefit,” says Benoît Illy.
No agreements have been signed yet, but the company has formed three partnerships with fashion brands, H&M, Aigle, and On-Running, which have paid for part of the development.
Last week, Fairbrics also was awarded a 17 million euros grant by the European Union through a Technology Upscaling Project bringing together 13 partners from seven countries throughout Europe. Partners involved in the project will contribute an additional 5 million euros.
Produce in Europe
For the moment, in this pre-industrial phase, Fairbrics thinks it can produce the equivalent of 1 000 T-shirts a day. There is enough money for the pilot plant, but for the full-scale plant, which would require an investment of tens of millions of euros, they will have to find more investors.
Initially, they wanted to target mainly the Asian market, but with the Covid-19 crisis and supply problems, they changed their mind. Fairbrics would now like to produce in Europe, for the European market, and license the technology for the US and Asia.
However, the cost of entry, which is much more expensive in Europe than in China, is a problem. But as their technology requires little labor, in the sense of technicians and engineers, Benoît Illy thinks they will be able to compete even with European salaries.
A recently published report by Oxford University suggests that CO2 removal projects are mainly insufficient to meet international climate targets, which will require the massive and rapid development of innovative technologies. Hence the importance of these new industrial developments.
The fashion industry produces 2 to 8% of manmade CO2 emissions, more than aviation and shipping combined. Synthetic fiber production accounts for around 40% of total fashion industry emissions.