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July 31, 2014

Turning Pollution into Plastic



Turning Pollution into Plastic

 Environment
Using a proprietary 'biocatalyst' machine, Newlight Technologies has devised a way of taking greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and turning it into plastic pellets.




C
alifornia-based, Newlight Technologies is forming plastic out of thin air. Using a proprietary 'biocatalyst' machine, the company has devised a way of taking greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and turning it into plastic pellets.

"We would be breathing this right now," said Mark Herrema, Newlight's CEO.

Herrema sees both sides of the climate change debate. "You've got people on one side who say, if we enact carbon legislation it's going to cost the economy, and they're not wrong," Herrema said. "On the other side, we have people who say this is a huge problem and we need to do something about it, and they're not wrong, either. The problem is they haven't been able to find something that works for both sides."

"What if plastics were no longer part of the problem, but part of the solution. That's what we have right now, and the impact has the potential to be huge."


The 32-year-old may have found that "something." He's figured out how to make plastic out of destructive carbon emissions that would otherwise heat the atmosphere, rather than with fossil fuels such as oil.

"What if plastics were no longer part of the problem, but part of the solution," says Herrema.  "That's what we have right now, and the impact has the potential to be huge."

Most importantly, he figured out a way to do it cheaper. It's something he has been working on since he started the company with his friend Kenton Kimmel in his parents' garage in 2003.

"We're not the first people to have the idea of turning greenhouse gas into plastic," Herrera said. "The thing that was missing was that no one had figured out how to do it cost-effectively."

The process, called AirCarbon works like this: carbon emissions are captured from farms, landfills, and energy facilities and are fed into a 50-foot-tall reactor at Newlight's plant. A bundle of enzymes strips out the carbon and oxygen and rearranges them into a substance they call air carbon.


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The product is then melted down and cooled inside tubes and sliced into little plastic pellets that can be molded into anything.

Herrema calls it "a disruptive technology that's gonna change the world."

According to Newlight, "AirCarbon is an independently-verified, cradle-to-grave (including all energy inputs, transportation, and end-of-life) carbon-negative material, quantifiably reducing the amount of carbon in the air in every ounce of AirCarbon we make."

Newlight is selling its plastic to companies such as furniture maker KI who uses it to create chairs. There are also air carbon cell phone cases, soap dishes and plastic bags.

At a recent Fortune Magazine event, Michael Dell announced his company will use Newlight's air carbon bags to wrap its computers. "We're going to be shipping that with our Latitude notebooks," he said. Newlight is currently in discussions with a number of other manufacturers to develop a range of other applications based on the technology, from automotive and beverage solutions through to apparel and packaging.

Herrema says a big breakthrough in the past year has made Newlight's process 10 times more efficient and will help them grow. "The AirCarbon production technology was scaled to small commercial scale in August 2013, so our mission now is to ramp up capacity to global scale. Our next major target is 50m pounds per year capacity", Herrema told the Guardian.





SOURCE  CBS News

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