Plastic made from pollution hits U.S. market

Two childhood friends spent a decade, beginning in college, figuring out how to cheaply make plastic from carbon that’s been captured from the atmosphere.

I’d like to share an article that USA TODAY just published on a global-warming-fighting technology that could take off in 2014. It’s called “AirCarbon,” and it transforms air pollution into plastic. The entire process is carbon-negative — it actually reduces greenhouse-gas emissions.

I thought you might find AirCarbon’s story interesting — and perhaps might want to blog about it or share it with your social-media following. (You can read the full story here, complete with a video of the technology in action: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/30/plastic-from-carbon-emissions/4192945/.)

The material could begin replacing conventional oil-based plastics — and fight climate change at the same time — in 2014. Wisconsin-based manufacturer KI Furniture will be among the first companies to put AirCarbon to use in its products this year, with several lines of new chairs.

History

As the USA today recently reported:

A decade ago in his Princeton dorm room, Mark Herrema had an aha moment. He read a newspaper story about the rise in heat-trapping methane emissions from dairy farms and decided to do something about it.

He thought — why not pull the carbon from the air and use it to make stuff? A politics major who also studied chemistry, he teamed up with childhood friend Kenton Kimmel,a biomedical engineering student at Northwestern University. They took odd jobs after graduation to fund their research.

“I was a bellhop and Kenton was a valet,” says Herrema, recalling how they worked 14 to 16 hours every day — even holidays — for years to pay their bills and test their ideas in rented lab space.

Industry experts told them it was a fool’s errand. For good reason. Scientists had spent decades trying to capture carbon and use it to make plastic but couldn’t do it cheaply enough. The two friends cracked the code by developing a ten-times more efficient bio-catalyst, which strips the carbon from a liquefied gas and rearranges it into a long chain plastic molecule.

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