Around the world, the capture and conversion of CO2 is igniting. A recent report published by the Nova (CO2) Institute and Unilever in April 2021 estimates that demand for fossil-derived chemicals will more than double by 2050. Renewable CO2 production will need to increase by a factor of 15 by 2050 to phase-out the use of fossil carbon in consumer products. Recycled carbon is a key form of renewable carbon and is essential to eliminating the use of fossil fuels.
Like Palm Oil, many people don't realise just how many household products contain fossil fuel derived CO2. Most commercial cleaning and laundry products contain chemicals made from fossil fuel feedstocks.
ONE OF THE KEY INGREDIENTS IN CLEANERS IS SURFACTANTS - CRITICAL FOR CREATING THE FOAM AND CLEANING ACTION OF MANY HOUSEHOLD CLEANING AND LAUNDRY PRODUCTS, FROM DISH SOAPS TO FABRIC DETERGENTS.
Unilever are big makers of home cleaners and have committed to eliminating fossil-fuel based chemicals from their cleaning and laundry product formulations by 2030. In April, Unilever announced a joint venture with LanzaTech and India Glycols Ltd to use recycled CO2 in OMO. The new process allows surfactants to be made using recycled CO2.
To achieve the recycled CO2 breakthrough, Unilver had to partner to capture the CO2 in the first place, with LanzaTech, who use biotechnology to capture waste industrial emissions and converts these emissions to ethanol. The ethonal is then coverted into ethylene oxide by India Glycols, a key feedstock to make surfactants. Unilever then uses the surfactant in the new OMO laundry capsules.
Billion dollar global perfum maker, Givauden are another example of Big-Co committing to replacing fossil derived CO2 with renewable CO2. Perfume is a complex mixture of ingredients which are based on carbon elements, often as the core backbone.
Gucci, Calvin Klein, and other Coty fragrances are turning to ethanol made from carbon-captured emissions for their perfume production.
The thing about surfectants and ethanol is that they are carbon based chemicals - oddly, called organic chemicals (not to be confused with organic, chemical free chemicals)?!...
The inclusion of 'organic chemical compounds' generally signals some kind of chemical stew in the product. (As a newly minted Uni organic chemistry student years ago, I still remember making a very potent banana smell. Isopentyl acetate has a strong odor which is similar to banana. It is an 'organic chemical compound' that is the ester formed by mixing isoamyl alcohol and acetic acid, using sulphuric acid as a catalyst.)
IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS OR DOUBTS ABOUT THE SUSTAINABILITY OF A SPECIFIC INGREDIENT, ALWAYS ASK THE BRAND. THE BRAND SHOULD LIST PRODUCT INGREDIENTS ON THEIR WEBSITE, AND IF THEY DON’T, IT MAY BE TIME TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE.
PRETTY MUCH ALL ECO-FRIENDLY CLEANSERS AND PERFUMES WILL BE VERY TRANSPARENT ABOUT INGREDIENTS.
Given ethanol is a common renewable CO2 conversion ingredient, it's no surprise that companies like Air Co in New York have been making Vodka out of recycled CO2 for some time. (Which really only leaves that industry with the very big, small-bottle packaging problem. Usually glass.)
Nova Institute has a very very long list of global collaborations in the renewable CO2 and bio industries.
Images: Unsplash | Uma Sophia / Trader's own photos and infographics