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Polyester From Pollution Gets $23 Million to Scale

French material innovator Fairbrics has received 22 million euros (over $23 million) to scale its alternative polyester business.

The company’s technology converts industrial CO2 emissions into polyester through circular manufacturing, reducing the need for fibers made from virgin polymers. The new funding comes from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program, which contributed 17 million euros (more than $18 million), and the Partners to the Technology Upscaling Project, which gave 5 million euros (over $5 million) to help Fairbrics bring its products to market.

According to a statement released Tuesday, the E.U. grant will support 13 partner groups across seven countries tied to the project, from upstream processors like CO2 capturing and chemical reuse experts, engineers, and electrolyzers to product specialists from different industries including French automotive company Faurecia and textile firm Les Tissages de Charlieu. In addition to advancing the commercial application of circular polyester, the grant will also support educational resources. Alongside academic partners, the project’s stakeholders will develop training materials for young professionals entering the industry and university students interested in CO2 valorization.

Fairbrics’ production technology, which captures and recycles CO2 waste fumes from chemical plants, will power a pilot project of 100kg per day by 2024 followed by 1 ton daily at its demo plant by 2026. The company said it hopes to boost the industry’s adoption of CO2-based polyester, lessening the need for fossil fuels to make materials for clothing, sports equipment and packaging.

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“By using CO2 emissions instead of fossil resources to manufacture polyester, Fairbrics addresses one of the greatest global challenge, climate change caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emission,” Fairbrics CEO and co-founder Benoît Illy said. “This funding comes as a strong recognition of the work Fairbrics has accomplished so far, the quality of the consortium we brought together, and the extraordinary potential of our technology to provide highly polluting industries like textile with an alternate environment-friendly and economically viable solution.”

Polyester, currently making up 60 percent of the textiles produced globally, is responsible for about one-third of the fashion industry’s GHG impact, Illy said. Replacing the source of that polyester can help companies mitigate their overall carbon impact. Fairbrics has secured strategic partnerships with companies from H&M to On Running and Aigle, with the goal of diversifying its offerings and tailoring products to other sectors down the line. It received the H&M Foundation’s Global Challenge Award in 2020.