Japan Airlines has taken biofuel tech to a whole new level, with the company now looking to use old clothing and turn it into jet fuel with the help of environmental firms and retailers. They plan to put this in action as early as 2017, with the help of Japan Environmental Planning (Jeplan) and the Green Earth Institute (GEI) based in Tokyo.
GEI’s main objective was to start research on biofuel technologies in collaboration with the government-backed Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth. The research centre has managed to create a method using microorganisms which process sugars present in cotton and create alcohols which can be burned as a fuel.
This is not the first time Jeplan has taken the initiative towards sustainable energy. It has already worked with 12 retailers like Aeon and Muji operator Ryohin Keikaku and has created a network of collecting used clothing from 1,000 stores around Japan. Up till now, they recycled the polyester in the clothes, but now with the latest technology they can also use cotton.
The technology is also special as it also gives an option of making fuel from industries such as paper mills, wood working shops, etc. This is important as hundred tonnes of cotton only yields ten kiloliters of fuel. This means that even if every cotton cloth in Japan is consumed for fuel production, it will create only 70,000kl or so per year, which is less than 1% of Japan’s jet fuel usage. Using GEI’s technology, they can expand the capability of this design, and the company considers cotton as only the beginning of a waste-conversion effort on a mega scale.
Jeplan is looking to build an experimental fuel plant at their factory, and they want to begin test flights by mixing conventional and cotton-derived fuels not later than 2020. The company also plans to have a commercial plant set up and running by 2030.
Although using organic sources for fuel such as cotton still has a CO2 footprint, it is nowhere close when compared with the fossil-fuel production. Japan Airlines has also been working on other efforts to reduce urban waste as turn it into fuel in a bid to reduce the carbon footprint from air travel around the globe.