Can Plastic Be Made Environmentally Friendly?
Mark Herrema’s road to making renewable plastics without oil wasn’t easy.
The 31-year-old Princeton graduate set aside his studies in politics and medical school plans to pursue his passion to make a plastic from methane, a colorless gas and a common byproduct on farms. He and his business partner, Kenton Kimmel, slowly built their enterprise working odd jobs like hotel bellhops and valets.
A decade later, private equity firms are backing their company, Newlight Technologies, and they’ve built two facilities to produce plastic pellets called AirCarbon.
The world produced an estimated 288 million metric tons of plastics in 2012, up from 99 million in 1989. Millions of barrels of crude oil is used to make this plastic, much of which is used only once and then thrown away.
As the world tries to move away from fossil fuels, companies are trying to make plastics from renewable sources, using resources like corn, methane and bacteria.
While the efforts so far are mostly on a small scale, they have the potential to transform how everyday materials are made, from plastic soda bottles to the plastic used in computers and cars, even the plastics used in clothes and furniture.
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