A restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, requires staff to wear aprons that capture greenhouse gases from the air.
The aprons were produced as part of a pilot project developed by researchers supported by H&M, as the fashion industry struggles to reduce its impact on the climate.
The Hong Kong Textiles and Apparel Research Institute (HKRITA) developed the chemical process. It comes in the form of a solution containing amines which is used to treat cotton – lint, yarn or fabric – by causing the material to attract carbon dioxide to it and capture it. This then stabilizes it and stores it on the surface of the textile.
The team was inspired by the techniques used in the chimneys of coal-fired power plants to limit emissions.
“Many power plants need to remove as much carbon dioxide as possible from the air before the exhaust gases are released,” HKRITA CEO Edwin Keh said. “We thought ‘why don’t we try to reproduce this chemical process on a cotton fiber’”.
An apron is capable of absorbing about a third of what a tree absorbs per day.
“The (capture) capability isn’t very high, but it’s pretty cheap to produce and pretty easy, and we think there are a lot of potential applications,” Keh says.
In the restaurant, after the aprons are used, they are heated to 30-40 degrees Celsius.
At this high temperature, they release the CO2 they were storing – and this is then used in the restaurant’s greenhouse to feed the plants.
“It’s used as food for plants to complete the photosynthesis cycle, and then it becomes nutritious for plants again,” Keh explains.
Fashion giants are under pressure to change their ways
Fashion giants are under increasing pressure to address the huge carbon footprint they produce as shoppers become more aware of the environmental impact clothing and as global temperatures rise.
The Swedish fast fashion chain H&M has been harshly criticized for its huge negative impact on the environment.
But the H&M Foundation says the innovation could potentially be a game-changer in reducing global CO2 emissions.
Development projects for CO2-absorbing textiles are, however, still in their infancy and their potential contribution to reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry remains to be demonstrated.
Keh says the institute will now further develop its technology and try to find other uses for it, as well as other ways to use or dispose of the captured CO2.
Watch the video above to see how the apron works.