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4 carbontech companies making products from thin air

From feedstock to fuel to flooring, these businesses are turning excess carbon dioxide into value and profit.

This article is adapted from GreenBiz's Circular Weekly newsletter on the latest circular economy news, running Fridays. Subscribe here.

It’s six months since I began working with the GreenBiz team on VERGE Carbon, our new conference on business opportunities in carbon removal during VERGE 19 next week. Given the deep relationship between carbon and circularity, I wanted to share my perspective about what circular business opportunities dovetail with carbon removal. 

Scientists have long said that we need to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. But it’s only in the past few years that this idea has gained traction. The notion that it might be profitable to do so is even less widely appreciated.

If this sounds doubtful, let me try to convince you otherwise by introducing you to four companies that showcase the extraordinary potential of this emerging sector, and explaining how all of this relates to the circular economy.

It’s only in the past few years that this idea has gained traction. The notion that it might be profitable to do so is even less widely appreciated.
Each of these examples has developed a process that uses carbon dioxide to create valuable products — turning waste into revenue, the essence of circularity. In different ways, these circular technologies also lessen our overuse of fossil fuels and agricultural land. What’s more, they’re active in multiple areas, which shows just how many parts of our economy would be affected if we can develop successful business models for carbon removal. 
  • Fishmeal for aquaculture is just one of the many valuable products that can be synthesized using microbes developed by Bay Area startup Kiverdi. The microbes are combined with carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen and water in a bioreactor powered by renewable energy. Through this process, Kiverdi’s Aquafeed has the potential to replace the wild fish caught annually to meet the growing demand for aquaculture, the fastest-growing food production sector. 

  • Around a year ago, a Boeing 747 operated by Virgin Atlantic flew from Orlando to London using jet fuel produced by LanzaTech, a company that creates fuels from the carbon-rich waste gases emitted by steel mills and other facilities. Aviation emissions — currently 2 percent of the global total, according to the Air Transport Action Group — are forecast to at least triple in coming decades. Technology such as LanzaTech’s one day could create jet fuel from carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere, avoiding the use of fossil fuels and dramatically lowering the industry’s carbon footprint.

  • My final pick is a company I can’t yet reveal because its product launch is still a few weeks away. I wanted to mention it anyway because I think at least some of you might like cocktails, and so might be interested in a new brand of vodka made from waste carbon dioxide. Suffice to say it’s intoxicating, so stay tuned.

If you're interested in diving deeper into the companies powering the circular carbon economy, the newly released Circular Carbon Network is a great resource. The website, created by XPRIZE and collaborating organizations, contains a database detailing 252 carbon removal companies, from over 20 countries that combined have raised more $2 billion for these technologies.

Here at GreenBiz we’re getting set for VERGE Carbon and the other impactful conferences that make up VERGE 19, which kicks off Oct. 22 in Oakland, California. Leaders from Interface, Kiverdi and LanzaTech are among the many innovative people, companies and technologies appearing at VERGE Carbon. I encourage you to head over to our online program to see the full line-up of sessions and speakers.

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