This Japanese Airline Wants To Turn Used Clothing Into Jet Fuel

Credit: Flights Nation / Trusted Clothes
Credit: Flights Nation / Trusted Clothes

Humans waste a lot. That’s a fact. Fortunately, Biofuel technology could allow some of the items citizens throw away – namely clothes – to be recycled and used for purposes the majority might benefit from.

Nikkei Asian Review reports that Japan Airlines, the nation’s second-large airplane company, is intent on transforming used clothing into jet fuel. The venture is a collaboration between the airline company, recycling firm Japan Environmental Planning (Jeplan), and the Green Earth Institute.

A plan was developed that entails clothes being sourced from retailers that might otherwise be thrown away. Using a kind of fermentation technology that breaks down the sugars contained in cotton into alcohols, the garments can be turned into a biofuel. At present, Jeplan is in the process of building an experimental fuel plant at one of its factory locations. Trials to begin test flights using a blend of standard and cotton-derived fuel will begin as early as 2020! By 2030, the company aims for the commercial flight plant to be established. 

Already, Jeplan works with 12 retailers, including Aeon and Muji prarent Ryohin Keikaku, to collect used garments at around 1,000 stores across Japan. Michihiko Iwamoto, who founded Jeplan in 2007, explained:

“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.”

It took five years for the entrepreneur to figure out a way to turn unwanted T-shirts and denim jeans into a bioethanol that can be utilized by vehicles. Last October, he unveiled the revolutionary technology.

The minds behind the bold proposal admit that cotton yields a small amount of fuel, but suggest that the environmental implications of recycling unwanted clothes and preventing them from being tossed into landfills could have positive repercussions. To gain broader insight on this topic, consider this: 100 tons of cotton yields about 10 kiloliters (or about 2,641 gallons) of fuel. A Boeing 747 requires 1 gallon of fuel every second, relays Ecouterre. Now that the process to convert clothes into fuel has been discovered, however, it can be improved upon and developed in the future. The company also notes that clothing might only be the beginning…

The Nikkei Asian Review elaborates:

“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.”

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