Start-up turns methane from manure into eco-friendly plastic

By Andrew Khouri, The Los Angeles Times.

What if you could pluck pollution out of the air — like the methane gas emitted from cow manure — and create plastics?

Scientists have long known it was possible to use climate-changing methane, rather than oil or natural gas, to make water bottles, Tupperware and other plastics. But they couldn't do it cheaply enough to make the technology commercially viable.

Now, a small Costa Mesa company says it's cracked the code. It's lined up contracts with Dell, L'Oreal and other major corporations to supply the plastic for packaging, containers and chairs from potent methane that would've instead seeped into the atmosphere. Newlight Technologies Chief Executive Mark Herrema claims his company can make plastics cheaper than traditional alternatives, and he hopes to transform the plastic industry and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A Newlight Technologies worker watches an extruder roll out strands of melted pellets for testing. (Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times)

"We don't think you can have a green impact without having an economic impact," Herrema said. "If you can have the market drive [a solution] what could be more powerful?"