AIRCARBON: PLASTIC FROM THIN AIR

1. Sustainability Problem

  • Humans produce 660 billion pounds of plastic a year, and the manufacturing process creates three times as much carbon dioxide by weight as actual plastic.
  • Plastic is mostly made of crude oil, which is collected mainly by fracking in the US. Fracking is associated with water pollution, earthquakes in non-sismic areas, and methane emissions.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. In 2014, CO2 accounted for about 80.9% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Issues: Air Pollution, Carbon Dioxide emissions, Petroleum consumption, Fracking

 

2. Technology 

Typically, plastic is made by exposing hydro­carbons from fossil fuels to tremendous pressure and energy. Newlight’s first commercial plant, in California, captures methane generated by a dairy farm’s waste lagoon and transports it to a bioreactor. There, enzymes combine the gas with air to form a polymer. The resulting plastic, called AirCarbon, performs identically to most oil-based plastics but costs less—creating a market-­driven solution to global warming.

AirCarbon is able to meet the performance requirements of a wide range of applications, including applications currently using fossil fuel-based polypropylene, polyethylene, ABS, polystyrene, and TPU. AirCarbon™ can be used in extrusion, blown film, cast film, thermoforming, fiber spinning, and injection molding applications. For more information about specific functional properties, please contact Newlight.

Companies have already signed on to use AirCarbon in their products, including KI desk chairs (pictured), Dell computer packaging, and Sprint smartphone cases.

 

3. Stakeholders

  • Newlight Technologies (owner of the technologies)
  • Companies making plastic-based products
  • Policy-makers to promote the use of AirCarbon
  • Environmental NGOs to require policy-makers to demand sustainable plastic production processes.

 

4. Implementation Process

Founded in 2003, after 10 years of research, Newlight has developed, patented, and commercialized the world’s first commercially-scaled carbon capture technology able to produce high-performance thermoplastics from air and methane emissions that can match the performance of oil-based plastics and out-compete on price.

The company has already won several sustainability awards, as well as attended many environment and sustainability summits in order to spread the word and raise awareness. The list is too large to appear in this text but can be found here: http://newlight.com/news/

 

5. Sources:

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