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July 9, 2021

Made of Air’s Carbon-Negative Bioplastic Stores Carbon for Centuries

This German start-up turns forest and farm waste into carbon-rich plastic, keeping it out of the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Carbon emissions and the plastic problem are both massive contributors to the climate crisis, leading to global warming and disrupted ecosystems all over the world. Berlin-based company Made of Air has developed a bioplastic that could help solve both problems, transforming potential carbon emissions into a thermoplastic with wide applications.

Founded in 2016 by architects Allison Dring and Daniel Schwaag, Made of Air aims to revolutionise the plastics industry with their carbon-negative, recyclable bioplastic. For something to be considered carbon-negative, it must either remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere or store more CO2 than is emitted. Made of Air’s plastic achieves this by being 90% carbon, storing approximately two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per each tonne of plastic. The company believes their plastic can be used to great effect in furniture, interiors, transport, urban infrastructure, and building facades – for instance, an Audi dealership in Munich features a seven-tonne façade of HexChar, hexagonal plastic panels, that stores fourteen tonnes of carbon.

HexChar might seem like a weird name for their plastic – that is, until you find out how it’s made. The material is formed out of non-toxic biochar, which is created by burning biomass from forestry and agricultural waste. By burning the biomass without oxygen, carbon dioxide cannot form, so the carbon instead forms biochar. Whereas the biomass would have decayed quickly, releasing carbon dioxide into the air, biochar stays stable for centuries. The carbon stored inside can only be released by burning the biochar, making it a great way to store carbon almost indefinitely. Made of Air turns the biochar into a thermoplastic by mixing the biochar with a binder made from sugar cane, making it mouldable like regular plastic – but will all the carbon-storing benefits.

Made of Air’s bioplastic is a truly exciting innovation in materials, giving designers and manufacturers the opportunity to sequester carbon instead of emitting it. In addition to the Audi dealership, companies have already expressed interest, with H&M partnering with Made of Air to make sunglasses. Hopefully, we’ll see more of this bioplastic on the market soon!

If you liked this article, you might like our feature about biodesign

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