Turning gas into plastic

A start-up company in Southern California has developed a way to sequester greenhouse gases and make plastic from carbon.

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Called AirCarbon, the environmentally friendly material is starting to appear in consumer products such as furniture and cellphone cases.

While most plastics are made from petroleum, a finite resource with a heavy environmental toll, the key ingredients of AirCarbon are the same greenhouse gas emissions that make petroleum products so harmful.

By sequestering emissions that would otherwise go into the atmosphere, the product is actually carbon negative.

Its two inventors have started Newlight Technologies, which is based in Southern California and has raised nearly US$19 million (S$24 million) in capital.

Says co-founder Mark Herrema: "While other plastics emit carbon into the air via manufacturing, AirCarbon reverses that flow and sequesters carbon."

Newlight partners dairy farms, wastewater treatment plants and landfills to capture carbon emissions, which are run through a reactor and converted into liquid. Carbon is isolated and turned into small plastic pellets, which are sold to manufacturers to be moulded into any shape.