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Walmart Seeks to Create Affordable Apparel From Carbon Emissions

Grocer teams with Rubi on carbon capture and conversion tech pilots
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Aside from its carbon capture pilots with Walmart, Rubi recently revealed an additional $8.7 million in series seed funding and initial strategic partnerships with several major fashion brands.

Walmart and manufacturing company Rubi Labs have embarked on pilot projects designed to explore the integration of innovative carbon capture technology that could ultimately lead to affordable apparel and other products made from carbon emissions. The output of those projects will be used to create a prototype apparel collection using Rubi’s fabric made from carbon emissions.

Inspired by how trees use carbon dioxide to grow, Rubi employs biochemical processes powered by enzymes at an industrial scale to “eat” carbon emissions and make carbon-negative, resource-neutral textiles. The patent-pending process captures and converts carbon dioxide from the waste streams of manufacturing facilities into cellulose. This converted cellulose is then used to make lyocell yarn, which can be used for clothing and materials.

[Read more: “Walmart, PepsiCo Collaborate on Regenerative Agriculture Programs”]

“Walmart’s collaboration with Rubi could reimagine the apparel supply chain by leveraging technology to create textiles from carbon emissions,” said Andrea Albright, Walmart’s EVP, sourcing. “This technology could play an important role in our journey towards zero waste and zero emissions. We see the opportunity to use our scale and reach to have a positive impact wherever we operate, and we’re committed to accelerate this impact through our products, services and business practices. Walmart’s joint effort with Rubi underscores this commitment.”

Walmart is the first company to enter into manufacturing and brand pilot agreements with Rubi. In one pilot, the two companies will investigate how Rubi’s modular reactor systems could integrate on-site with carbon dioxide-producing facilities at manufacturers in the Walmart supply chain to capture and convert the carbon dioxide. In the other pilot, Walmart and Rubi will test the latter’s cellulose fiber performance for use in a prototype garment, and then design and develop a sample apparel collection, with a particular emphasis on consumer accessibility.

“At Rubi, our goal is to ensure a thriving future by restoring Earth’s ecological balance with reimagined supply chains,’ said Neeka Mashouf, co-founder and CEO of San Leandro, Calif.-based Rubi, which recently revealed an additional $8.7 million in series seed funding and initial strategic partnerships with major fashion brands H&M, Reformation, GANNI, and Nuuly. “Walmart’s ability to mobilize positive impact across its supply chain of diverse U.S. collaborations could be massively impactful in scaling our production and delivering on our commitments. We’re thrilled to collaborate with them.” 

Walmart has worked with suppliers, NGOs and climate action leaders to spark positive change across global value chains since 2005. In its own operations, the company has set a goal to be powered 50% by renewable energy by 2025 and 100% by 2035. More than 5,200 suppliers globally are participants in Walmart’s Project Gigaton, and as of 2022, suppliers have reported reducing or avoiding more than 750 million metric tons of carbon emissions collectively since 2017.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart operates more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites in 20 countries. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named it one of its Retailers of the Century.

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