Walmart partners with Rubi Laboratories to turn carbon emissions into textiles

Walmart has joined forces with a California startup to explore innovative carbon dioxide removal technology within its supply chain. The retail giant aims to eventually transform this captured CO2 into yarn for clothing.

The collaboration with Rubi Laboratories Inc. from San Leandro involves a pilot project to identify factories in Walmart’s supply chain where waste gases containing carbon dioxide can be captured using Rubi’s reactor systems.

Climate experts believe that this emerging technology, which captures CO2 from industrial smokestacks, could divert billions of tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, either storing it deep underground or finding novel ways of reusing it.

While most carbon-capture plants are operated by oil and gas companies, Rubi’s approach is different. They use biochemical processes to convert the captured gas into cellulose, the primary substance found in the walls of plant cells. Inspired by trees’ natural growth process, this cellulose is then used to produce lyocell yarn, a material suitable for textiles.

Following performance testing, Walmart and Rubi plan to develop a prototype apparel collection. The pilot project is scheduled to run through the end of 2024. The collaboration represents Walmart’s commitment to exploring sustainable solutions and reducing its carbon footprint within the fashion supply chain.

The goal is to “find a greener way to manufacture apparel,” Andrea Albright, Walmart’s executive vice president of sourcing, said in an interview. “If we can pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and put it into a raw material in a way that doesn’t cause an abundance of electricity usage or other implications, that’s compelling to us. “This technology could play an important role in our journey towards zero waste and zero emissions.”

Rubi Chief Executive Neeka Mashouf, who founded the company with her twin sister Leila in 2021, said its equipment should be able to capture 90% of a factory’s carbon emissions. 

The startup has raised $13.5 million from investors that include Talis Capital, Patagonia Inc.’s Tin Shed Ventures and Sweden’s H&M Group, and has partnerships with brands such as Nuuly by Urban Outfitters Inc.

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