Genomatica’s expanded Aquafil partnership brings biomaterials to more consumer goods

In a deal that has potentially big implications for the sustainability of consumer packaged goods, biomaterial manufacturing technology developer Genomatica and the massive nylon material manufacturer Aquafil have partnered on a new demonstration scale facility.

Nylon-6 is used to make everything from toothbrush bristles to pantyhose and industrial materials like carpeting and other heavy-duty fabrics.

The material will be used to develop renewable products and showcase goods that can be brought to market as more companies look to clean up their supply chains and make products that have fewer negative consequences for the environment at the end of their life.

The deal is a 50-fold expansion of previous production levels for Genomatica and represents a significant expansion of Genomatica’s capabilities.

The textile industry is a $960 billion business, and it’s one of the most polluting in the world — both in terms of chemical treatments and greenhouse gas emissions. According to data cited by the World Economic Forum, the textile industry accounts for 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per-year — nearly as much as the auto industry. Nylon production alone is responsible for about 60 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to the companies.

The multi-year agreement with European-based Aquafil expands on the two companies’ existing relationship. Earlier this year the two companies produced the first ton of bio-nylon-6 precursor material at a pilot scale. Now, the move to a demonstration scale plant will give Genomatica the ability to move ahead with supply agreements to certain brand partners.

Clothing maker Far Eastern New Century uses Genomatica’s products in its clothes, and other partnerships are in the works, the company said.

Genomatica is backed by Casdin Capital, Viking Global Investors, which continues as Genomatica’s largest shareholder, and organism engineering partner Ginkgo Bioworks.

“Bio-nylon is positioned to replace a material that’s used in millions of applications every day,” said Christophe Schilling, Genomatica CEO. “Our research shows that despite health and economic turmoil, 56% of Americans still want brands to prioritize sustainability. With this scale, Genomatica is offering our brand partners a key way to meet their sustainability objectives, differentiate themselves, and meet surging consumer demand.”

Aquafil is building the plant in Slovenia, where the Genomatica biological precursor material will be converted into bio-nylon-6 yarns, films and engineered plastics.