LanzaTech and Sumitomo Riko to Create Substitute for Natural Rubber Production to Avoid Impact on Biodiversity
Illinois-headquartered LanzaTech, an innovative Carbon Capture and Transformation (CCT) company that transforms waste carbon into materials such as sustainable fuels, fabrics, packaging, and other products and Japan-headquartered rubber manufacturer Sumitomo Riko Company Limited, announced on 29 November they have entered into a joint-development agreement to reuse rubber, resin and urethane waste for the production of a key chemical intermediate, isoprene.
Isoprene is produced by plants, and along with its polymers, is the main component of natural rubber. Natural rubber is widely regarded as more eco-friendly than synthetic rubber from virgin fossil inputs, but without strong sustainability certification and audits, the impact of harvesting natural rubber from trees has been linked in some cases to deforestation, biodiversity loss and soil erosion. In addition, much like other agriculturally based industries, climate change and disease can severely impact production.
“This exciting partnership with Sumitomo represents an opportunity to make a significant positive impact on the production of rubber,” said Jennifer Holmgren, Chief Executive Officer, LanzaTech.
“Thanks to increasing demand across multiple sectors, including medical and automotive, the global isoprene market is projected to be worth around US $4 billion by 2025. We need new sustainable pathways for the production of rubber, to avoid any impact on land and biodiversity.
“To be able to make isoprene directly from waste rubber and other waste resources is truly groundbreaking, will keep fossil carbon in the ground and will enable domestic, sustainable production of this key raw material around the world.”
“As we aim to be a sustainable company, we see a vast potential to recycle and reuse our waste materials,” said Kazushi Shimizu, President & CEO of Sumitomo Riko Company Limited. “Approximately 46,000 tons of natural and synthetic rubber are used in our leading rubber products annually, making rubber one of our most important raw materials.
“A large amount of rubber waste is also produced from the manufacturing process as well as extracted from used automobile parts. Our joint development with LanzaTech aims to recycle rubber waste directly into a substitute for natural rubber.”
Using synthetic biology for this new path to isoprene, LanzaTech’s nature-based platform, has the potential to produce a new sustainable source of rubber through recycling, without losing any material integrity.
“Together with Sumitomo, we aim to create a sustainable supply chain, that enables not only circularity but keeps our forests and planet healthy,” said Holmgren. “We need multiple pathways to succeed in producing the key materials in our lives, and we are delighted to be working on isoprene production with Sumitomo.”