Turning hot air into cool designer chairs
But the sticking point is efficiency - using less energy to produce something from the gas than that gas represents in emissions.
Enter biocatalysts - enzymes or hormones that increase the rate of a chemical reaction.
Newlight Technologies has been working since 2003 to fashion a biocatalyst that would help them turn the energy in methane and carbon dioxide into PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) based plastic, and at a level of efficiency that would make their plastics comparable price-wise with plastics such as polypropylene produced from petroleum.
After nearly a decade, the company has a biocatalyst that it says performs five times better than previous catalysts.
So what about the chairs?
Well, Newlight has been finding a number of companies to work with that use polypropylene, and one of them is KI, which makes a range of chairs for offices and educational institutions.
PHA-based plastics have eco-advantages over petroleum plastics, and in Newlight's case the AirCarbon plastic they provide to KI uses no oil or food crops in production; is carbon negative, and is made simply from methane or carbon dioxide and the enzymatic biocatalyst.
For its part, KI plans to put the AirCarbon plastic into chairs in both its Strive and Grazie chair collections. KI can call the chairs 'carbon negative' because more greenhouse gas is sequestered - mostly from dairy farms - to make the plastic than is emitted in producing the chairs.
While you may never buy a KI chair, it might not be long before these carbon-negative chairs like the collapsible Strive nesting chair show up in a cafeteria or conference room near you. KI is currently performing its own lifecycle analysis on the new chair lines and plans to introduce products sometime in 2014.