H&M-backed project uses aprons to sop up CO2 as well as stains

Martin Wall, right, executive chef at the Fotografiska museum restaurant, prepares a meal wearing an apron made of fabric that captures and stores carbon dioxide, in Stockholm on April 26.

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) — A Stockholm restaurant crew is wearing cotton aprons that capture greenhouse gas from the air, in a pilot of a technique developed by H&M-backed researchers as the fashion industry struggles to lower its climate impact.

The textile industry has a large carbon footprint, something fashion giants are under increasing pressure to address as shoppers become more aware of the environmental impact of clothes and as global temperatures rise.

The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) has developed an amine-containing solution with which to treat cotton — fiber, yarn or fabric — making the cotton pull carbon dioxide gas toward it and capture it, to thereafter stabilize and store it on the surface of the textile.

HKRITA CEO Edwin Keh said in an interview his team had been inspired by techniques used in the chimneys of coal-fired power plants to limit emissions.

“Many power plants have to scrub as much carbon dioxide as they can out of the air before the exhaust is released,” Keh told Reuters. “We thought ‘Why don’t we try to replicate that chemical process on a cotton fiber?’”

A T-shirt is able to absorb about a third of what a tree absorbs per day, Keh said. “The [capturing] capacity isn’t super high but this is quite inexpensive to produce and quite easy, and we think there are a lot of potential applications.”