LanzaTech and Sumitomo Riko Partner to Produce Natural Rubber Substitute

LanzaTech and Sumitomo Riko Company Limited have joined hands in a joint-development agreement to develop a new method for producing isoprene, a key chemical intermediate, using recycled rubber, resin, and urethane waste.

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Published on
August 3, 2023

Isoprene, a vital component of natural rubber, is typically produced by plants. Natural rubber is considered more eco-friendly than its synthetic counterparts derived from fossil fuels. However, the lack of strong sustainability certifications and audits has raised concerns about the environmental impact of harvesting natural rubber from trees, including deforestation, biodiversity loss, and soil erosion. Additionally, the rubber industry, like other agriculturally based sectors, faces challenges from climate change and disease that can disrupt production.

Jennifer Holmgren, the Chief Executive Officer of LanzaTech, expressed enthusiasm for the partnership with Sumitomo, stating that it represents an opportunity to make a significant positive impact on rubber production. The global isoprene market is projected to be worth around US $4 billion by 2025, driven by increasing demand in various sectors, including medical and automotive. Holmgren emphasised the need for sustainable pathways in rubber production to avoid negative impacts on land and biodiversity. The breakthrough of producing isoprene directly from waste rubber and other resources is hailed as a groundbreaking solution that will keep fossil carbon in the ground and enable domestic, sustainable production of this critical raw material worldwide.

Kazushi Shimizu, President & CEO of Sumitomo Riko Company Limited, spoke about the company's commitment to sustainability and its vision of recycling and reusing waste materials. Sumitomo uses approximately 46,000 tons of natural and synthetic rubber annually in their leading rubber products, making rubber one of their most essential raw materials. The manufacturing process and the extraction of rubber from used automobile parts generate significant rubber waste. With the partnership with LanzaTech, Sumitomo aims to recycle rubber waste directly into a substitute for natural rubber, contributing to a more sustainable future.

LanzaTech is employing synthetic biology in its innovative approach to isoprene production. Their new nature-based platform shows great promise in creating a sustainable source of rubber through recycling without compromising material integrity. By partnering with Sumitomo, LanzaTech aims to establish a sustainable supply chain that not only fosters circularity but also safeguards the health of our forests and planet. The collaboration strives to offer multiple pathways for producing essential materials and takes pride in contributing to isoprene production with a strong focus on environmental responsibility.


What is LanzaTech's expertise?
LanzaTech specializes in transforming waste carbon into sustainable fuels, fabrics, and packaging materials.

Why is natural rubber considered eco-friendly?
Natural rubber is derived from plants, making it a renewable and biodegradable resource.

What challenges does the rubber industry face?
The rubber industry is impacted by deforestation, biodiversity loss, and climate change, which can disrupt production.

What is the significance of isoprene in rubber production?
Isoprene is a crucial chemical intermediate and the main component of natural rubber.

How does LanzaTech plan to produce isoprene sustainably?
LanzaTech aims to utilise waste rubber and other resources through its nature-based platform, thereby reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and promoting recycling.

The LanzaTech and Sumitomo Riko partnership represents a pioneering step towards a more sustainable future for rubber production. By repurposing rubber waste and employing innovative techniques, the collaboration aims to minimise the industry's impact on the environment while meeting the growing global demand for isoprene. This joint effort serves as an example of how businesses can work together to address environmental challenges and foster a circular economy, ultimately contributing to a healthier planet.

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