This Airline Wants To Turn Old Clothing Into Jet Fuel

by: Rosie Dalton | 4 years ago | News

Image: Japan Airlines. Image source.

The latest thing in clean energy appears to be clothing, as Japan Airlines seeks to reclaim used garments for converting into jet fuel. The airline is Japan’s second largest and this latest move is part of its work with recycling firm Japan Environmental Planning (or Jeplan) and Tokyo’s Green Earth Institute. Together, the trio is working on establishing a collaborative council that could see this innovative energy source enter trial phase as early as 2020.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review. Jeplan already works with 12 different retailers, including Aeon and Muji parent company Ryohin Keikaku in order to collect used garments at as many as 1,000 stores across Japan. These relationships were developed after Jeplan founder and entrepreneur Michihiko Iwamoto spent five years developing a way to create bioethanol from cast-off T-shirts and denim jeans.

Ecouterre reports that this technology uses fermentation to break down the sugars contained in cotton into alcohols. And that it made its first public foray last October, when Iwamoto took a tricked-out DeLorean on a tour of shopping malls around Japan. “I totally believed that in the future, there would be a car that runs on garbage,” said Iwamoto, referring to the trash-powered time machine from Back to the Future II. “But years went by, and that didn’t happen. So I thought I’d develop it.” In a bid to further this dream, Jeplan says it will be building an experimental fuel plant at one of its factory locations and plans to begin test flights using a blend of conventional and cotton-derived fuel in 2020. All going well, they then hope to establish a commercial plant by 2030.

Of course, cotton-derived fuel isn’t a cure-all for conventional fuel, though. This is mostly because 100 tons of cotton only yields about 2,641 gallons of fuel, where a plane like the Boeing 747 uses about 1 gallon of fuel every second. “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 percent of Japan’s jet fuel usage,” the Nikkei Asian Review notes. But since it might be possible to extend the technology to other types of waste like paper, clothing might just represent the beginning.

Via Ecouterre

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