BY: SAMANTHA TAPP
While animal activists and environmentalists alike are still reeling from the news that Japan closed its last fur farm, Japan is working on another project that is sure to have the same positive reaction from environmentalists and anyone who cares about global warming. Japan’s newest idea is using old clothing as fuel for flying planes.
This project is an initiative by Japan Airlines, the country’s second-largest airplane company. Working with the recycling firm Japan Environmental Planning (Jeplan) and the Tokyo-based Green Earth Institute, the companies want to take used clothing and turn it into jet fuel. Jeplan is already working with 12 clothing retailers to collect used clothing to recycle the polyester, which would otherwise be thrown out from 1,000 stores across Japan. For plane fuel, the cotton from the clothing will be used.
According to True Activist, the companies will use a fermentation technology that breaks down the sugars from the cotton into alcohols, which will allow the clothing to be transformed into fuel.
There are a few years to go until the project will be put into play, as currently Jeplan is just building an experimental fuel plant. Michihiko Iwamoto, founder of Jeplan, spent five years developing the method to create fuel from old T-shirts and jeans.
According to Ecouterre, he said: “I totally believed that in the future, there would be a car that runs on garbage. But years went by, and that didn’t happen. So I thought I’d develop it.”
In 2020, trials will take place to test flights using a mixture of standard and cotton-driven fuel. Hopefully by 2030, the commercial flight plant will be established.
Cotton will make only a small amount of fuel. One hundred tons of cotton yields 10 kilolitres of fuel. The Nikkei Asian Review said, “Even if all the cotton consumed in Japan were used in fuel production, this would give only 70,000kl or so annually – less than 1 per cent of Japan’s jet fuel usage.”
On another hand, it’s not entirely environmentally-friendly, as making fuel from cotton will still release carbon dioxide at the beginning. However, those emissions will be less than half of those from fossil-fuel production.
Don’t be discouraged; Jeplan sees this technology as just the beginning of using garbage in innovative ways to sustain the environment. And of course, it’s undeniable that recycling the clothes for fuel instead of tossing them in the trash is a huge improvement.