Sustainable suds: Unilever creates laundry pods from recycled carbon

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

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Unilever has collaborated with carbon recycling company LanzaTech and green tech manufacturer Glyocols to produce dissolvable laundry pods made from recycled carbon.

Laundry pods are primarily composed of surfactants, a key ingredient in producing foam and the cleaning action of many detergents. These are typically derived from fossil fuels, but the new process, said the company, means it can now be created using recycled carbon emissions.

To create the CO2-based surfactants, LanzaTech captures industrial emissions at a steel mill in Beijing and converts the waste gases into ethanol. India Glycols then convert the ethanol to ethylene dioxide, the main component of surfactants. 

The finished product is the new Omo (Persil) laundry capsules manufactured in the company’s factory in Hefei, China.

According to Unilever, the innovative process LanzaTech uses to create ethanol cuts the CO2 emissions by 82 per cent compared to the traditional process made from fossil fuel.

“Advancements in technology like this means we can now reinvent the chemistry of our products,” said Peter Kulve, president of the home care division at Unilever.

 “Instead of valuable carbon being released directly into the atmosphere, we can capture it and recycle it in our products instead of using fossil fuels.”

He added that the company wants to make sustainability easy for everyone, and innovations like this help move cleaning brands away from fossil fuels without compromising on price or performance.

“We’re excited by the potential that this breakthrough represents for future innovations across our portfolio and our industry, he concluded.

The partnership is part of the company’s Clean Future strategy, intending to replace 100 per cent of carbon derived from fossil fuels in cleaning and detergent formulations with recycled or renewable carbon by 2039. 

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.

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