It was reading a newspaper article about methane emissions from cows in 2003 that prompted Princeton graduate Mark Herrema to wonder, what if we could harness greenhouse gas emissions to make materials? Over a burrito dinner, his friend Kenton Kimmel agreed to help him try to turn pollution into plastic, and California-based Newlight Technologies was born in his parent’s garage.
It took ten years of research and development to come up with a cost-effective carbon capture technology which combines air and methane-based greenhouse gasses (from farms, landfill and energy industries) to create a plastic they called AirCarbon. By displacing oil traditionally used in plastics with air and reducing climate-changing carbon, its environmental impact has the potential to be massive.
Its challenge is to grow its business enough to disrupt the US$380 billion plastics industry. The US alone generated 14 million tonnes of plastic in 2013, only 8% of which was recycled. Be warned though – as Mark Herrema says – the product is still plastic, and must be recycled properly.
Voted ‘Technology Innovation of the Year’ at the American Business Awards in 2013, Newlight is operating the world’s first commercial-scale greenhouse gas-to-AirCarbonTM manufacturing facility which produces 23,000 tonnes of AirCarbon annually. It can be found in over 70 household names worldwide, including Dell computer bags, Body Shop beauty products and IKEA furniture. Find out more here