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Surfactant made from carbon emissions

Earth Day, 22 April, saw a world first in the launch of the first product using a surfactant made from industrial carbon emissions. This was developed by Unilever, LanzaTech and India Glycols (IGL), and was used in an Omo laundry capsule in China.

Gas fermentation specialist LanzaTech captured industrial emissions at its Beijing Shougang LanzaTech plant in China and converted them to ethanol. It claims that this process cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 82% over the existing fossil-based process. IGL converted the ethanol into ethylene oxide, a feedstock for surfactant, which Unilever then used to make the capsule at its factory in Hefei.

Unilever described this as one in a series of innovations being made via its new Clean Future strategy. Under this, the company aims to eliminate fossil-based chemicals from its cleaning and laundry product formulations by 2030, replacing it with carbon from captured CO2, plants and other biological sources marine sources such as algae and waste materials.

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