L’Oreal unveils ‘world’s first’ plastic bottles made from captured carbon

The bottles will be available to customers by 2024. Image: L'Oreal

The bottle has been developed as part of the toiletry giant’s partnership with fuel and petrochemicals major Total and carbon capture technology developer LanzaTech.

Under the partnership, LanzaTech captures carbon emissions from the energy generation and heavy industrial sectors before converting the carbon into ethanol. Total then takes the ethanol and converts it into ethylene using a dehydration-based process. The ethylene can then be made into polyethene.

Finally, L’Oreal takes the polyethene and uses it to make plastic packaging for its products. The firm claims that the material has the “same quality and technical characteristics” as virgin fossil plastic, including recyclability.

L’Oreal is aiming to add the material to its shampoo and conditioner bottles by 2024. It said in a statement that it will continue working with Total and LanzaTech to develop a roadmap for scaling up production and that it would like other companies to join the project to help create economies of scale for the material.

“Together, we can reduce the carbon footprint of packaging by converting carbon emissions into useful products, making single-use carbon a thing of the past,” LanzaTech’s chief executive Jennifer Holmgren said.

“We are grateful to both L’Oréal and Total for their commitment to reducing the carbon intensity of their activities.”

Total has notably set a 2050 net-zero target for its business in Europe, in keeping with the EU’s Green New Deal and the UK’s long-term climate goals. The company publicly outlined its plans for diversifying away from fossil fuels and becoming a “low-carbon power producer” for the first time this month.

L’Oreal, meanwhile, is aiming to become a carbon-neutral company within five years. Its targets on packaging and materials include a goal to ensure all plastic packaging comes from recycled or bio-based sources by 2030, which has already been met for Paris Elvive shampoos. One of its longer-term ambitions is to bring a paper-based bottle to market, in collaboration with businesses including Diageo, the Absolut Company, Carlsberg, Unilever, PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company.

Good riddance to old fossils

The idea of using captured carbon to produce plastics products is not exclusive to LanzaTech.

At Drax’s biomass power plant in Yorkshire, Econic Technologies is working to convert captured carbon into polymers that can be used in new products and packaging. Drax first began capturing carbon in February 2019 and, since then, has partnered with Mitsubishi to scale up its CCUS arrays. It is hoping to expand its generation and CCUS capacities further in the coming years as part of the Humber’s net-zero industrial cluster.

Elsewhere, Unilever is planning to use captured carbon in its laundry and home cleaning products. It has committed to eliminating virgin, fossil-based materials from these products by 2030, replacing them with captured, recycled or bio-based alternatives. Once this move is complete, the carbon footprint of the product portfolio will decrease by one-fifth. 

Unilever Home Care’s R&D Director Ian Howell recently spoke exclusively to edie to detail the company’s plans in this space. You can watch that video interview in full here.

Sarah George

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