Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeNewsCampus NewsAirCarbon Straws Introduced to All UCI Retail Dining Locations

AirCarbon Straws Introduced to All UCI Retail Dining Locations

- advertisement -

AirCarbon is a regenerative biomaterial created by biotechnology company Newlight Technologies that has the potential to phase out traditional plastics, and UCI Dining has recently introduced AirCarbon straws to all on-campus retail dining locations such as the Phoenix Food Court,West Food Court, and East Food Court in order to make dining at UCI more sustainable. 

There are natural microorganisms in the ocean that consume greenhouse gases as their energy source. Newlight Technologies discovered they could create a safe plastic alternative with these organisms while removing harmful carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Their first commercial production plant opened in Huntington Beach, California.

In the plant, large tanks are filled with salt water and marine microorganisms. When these organisms consume greenhouse gases, which are gasses in the atmosphere that trap heat such as methane and carbon dioxide, they naturally produce a nontoxic polymer called polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)

From this biopolymer, Newlight Technologies then creates the AirCarbon, a pure white powder, which can be melted down and turned into various objects such as straws and forks. It is a substance that is made by life, imperishable in hot and cold, and reusable. 

Making AirCarbon is a carbon-negative process, meaning that the process material removes CO2 from the atmosphere as opposed to emitting it. Newlight Technologies built the world’s first commercial-scale production system called Eagle 3 in 2019, using air and greenhouse gasses to make AirCarbon and IBM blockchain technology to keep track of its inputs. 

AirCarbon has already been used to make products such as bags, straws, containers and phone cases. Since the material is natural, it can degrade in the ocean in about one year whereas plastic can take hundreds of years to degrade.  

Photo by Sera Guven / Staff

AirCarbon is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and products made from AirCarbon are sold at stores such as Target and Restore Foodware

Bringing AirCarbon straws to UCI helps support the university’s commitment to sustainable practices by diminishing the campus’s ecological footprint one straw at a time. 

Photo by Sera Guven / Staff 

Sera Selin Guven is a STEM staff writer for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at guvens@uci.edu