Feb. 5 - After more than a decade of research, a pair of young entrepreneurs in Costa Mesa, California, say they have found a way to turn air pollution into a usable form of plastic. Rob Muir reports.
These plastic beads were once greenhouses gases...methane and carbon dioxide. Called Aircarbon, they are proof, according to Mark Herrema and Kenton Kimmel, that the gases causing climate change can be extracted from factory emissions and turned into a useful form of plastic. Most plastic products come from oil, but Herrema says the method his company Newlight Technologies has developed, is far better. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEWLIGHT TECHNOLOGIES CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER MARK HERREMA SAYING: "With AirCarbon, what's so cool is that you have a material that would essentially otherwise be floating around in the air, the same carbon that we would be breathing everyday, and so wouldn't you rather be holding a fork made from carbon that you'd otherwise be breathing than oil." And not just forks. The company is making chairs, plastic sheeting and cell phone cases. Newlight's technology extracts carbon from polluted air, liquifies it and re-arranges its molecular structure. The result is what Herrera calls a high-performance, cost-effective, carbon negative thermoplastic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEWLIGHT TECHNOLOGIES CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER MARK HERREMA SAYING: "I mean the environmental implications are the reason we got through all those early years, because we knew that if we could make this work, and we were ten and a half years away from that happening, but if we could make this work, you have a market-based carbon capture process, which means that you don't have to tell someone, you know, to reduce their carbon emissions, you don't have to tax carbon emissions, you're saying 'if you're producing those emissions, they're now a revenue generator' and on the plastic side, you can actually save money by using a product made from carbon capture, so the environmental implications of that, in our view are significant, because it means we're replacing oil with a product that's actually reducing the amount of carbon in the air." And as concern over the environmental impact of CO2 emissions grows, Herrema says Aircarbon is a technology whose time has come.