- Industry giants from £73 billion UK sector, including Unilever, BASF and Tata Steel, embark on a first of its kind cross-sector collaboration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Currently, fossil feedstocks extracted from coal, oil and gas, are used to make a range of consumer goods from electronics to cleaning products, which globally put around 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere every year
- The cross-sector collaboration ‘Flue2Chem’ will work to convert industrial waste gases in the UK to create more sustainable chemicals for consumer products, a move which is essential in helping the UK reach net zero by 2050
Key industrial players representing the UK’s £73 billion chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry sector have signed a collaboration agreement to launch ‘Flue2Chem’ – a collaborative programme to transform the sustainability of the UK’s consumer products industry and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a demonstration scale.
SCI (Society of Chemical Industry), Unilever and 13 other organisations have secured funding for a two-year programme to develop a new value chain to convert industrial waste gases into sustainable materials for consumer products.
The project, which has been granted £2.68 million from Innovate UK via UKRI’s Transforming Foundation Industries (TFI) Challenge, will aim to help the UK reach its net zero targets.
One goal is to seek to demonstrate how the UK could cut 15–20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year.
The aim of the consortium is to enable the use of waste gases from foundation industries such as the production of metals, glass, paper and chemicals to generate an alternative source of carbon for UK consumer product production.
This comes at a time when most of the carbon used to produce plastics, cosmetics, synthetic textiles, and many other products is extracted from coal, oil and gas. If the UK is to reach its net zero target by 2050, industries must find an alternative source for the carbon in these goods.
Aside from the technical aspects of the project, the business model development will frame the economic incentives that will likely be required to make the model work. The project will bring together partners from across the whole supply chain to achieve this.
Currently the UK imports large amounts of carbon containing feedstocks each year for use in the consumer goods industry. Securing an alternative domestic source of carbon in these goods is one way in which these sectors can contribute to net zero targets, while also building a new UK value chain.
David Bott, SCI’s Head of Innovation said:
‘This is an excellent example of the power of collaborative working. It is an important step for the UK and SCI’s vision of furthering the application of chemistry and related sciences into industry for public benefit.
‘The new business model will aim to reduce the need for imported fossil fuel material. Instead, the consortium will build a new, more sustainable supply chain whilst also mitigating waste emissions. The group will develop methods for using carbon captured from waste streams of other industries and transform them into affordable raw materials for consumer products.’
Project lead Ian Howell, Unilever’s Home Care Science & Technology R&D Director and Chair of SCI’s SMCP Group explained:
‘This is a game-changing opportunity to accelerate action and rewire the chemicals value chain to be less reliant on fossil fuels. It’s a bold ambition and one that, at Unilever, we have been publicly calling for action over the last two years. No single company can do this alone, so to have the power of 15 manufacturers and academics marks a significant step forward not only for the UK, but globally too.’
Bruce Adderley, Innovate UK Challenge Director for the Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge, added:
‘Underpinned by circular economy thinking, the Foundation Industries and their supply chain partners are bringing forward a range of new innovations as they move towards a sustainable competitive future. But these need to be demonstrated at scale if they are to be rapidly deployed in the UK and taken to international markets. That is why we are delighted to be able to support projects like Flue2Chem which have huge potential to address decarbonisation through multi-industry collaboration focused on resource and energy efficiency.’
In addition to SCI, Unilever, BASF and Tata Steel, the other consortium partners are: UPM-Kymmene, Holmen, Croda, Johnson Matthey, The University of Sheffield, The University of Surrey, Carbon Clean, Procter & Gamble, Centre for Process Innovation, Confederation of Paper Industries, and Reckitt. These organisations encompass the capture, transformation and use of the carbon emissions in industry.