Episode #51 - This technology business is revolutionising the way we think about waste carbon

Show notes

Jennifer Holmgren, the CEO of pioneering green fuels business LanzaTech has been hunkering down at the beautiful Cedar Lakes Estate, some 70 miles outside of new york city. For two weeks of limited access to the outside world, she, along with 11 other business leaders have been put through some serious mentoring and business strategising as part of the Unreasonable Impact programme in the US – an initiative orchestrated by Barclays and the Unreasonable Group.

And it was for good reason. 

LanzaTech was selected as one of just 12 businesses from, let’s face it, a gargantuan list of innovative companies out there, because it is on the cusp of greatness, demonstrating through its unique business model that it can scale up marvellously, creating some 500 new jobs in the emerging green economy within the next five years.

Founded in 2005, LanzaTech has found a way to commercialize carbon capture and reuse technology.

Sean Simpson, chief scientific officer and co-founder, LanzaTech

It converts carbon-rich waste gases (which contain carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen) and turns them into high-quality biofuels and chemicals. So, taking the waste carbon in gases and residues coming out of steel manufacturing plants, for example, and sequestering them into a new product – fuels that can power our cars, our planes – and the future. “Everybody knows about the fermentation process used in beer-making, where microbes turn sugar into alcohol,” says co-founder of the business and chief scientific officer, Sean Simpson (pictured). “Well, in our process, the microbes turn gases into alcohol.”

In this week’s Better Business Show, Simpson explains how the business plans to shake up the renewable energy sector with its fuels which reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% compared to conventional gasoline – and by using waste as a feedstock, LanzaTech is operating wholly outside the food value chain, with no impact on land or water.

Enjoy. And, as ever, let us know what you think.

How the LanzaTech gas fermentation process works

How the LanzaTech gas fermentation process works

Episode #32 - Adaptavate: Creating healthy buildings with a new set of lungs

Show notes

Now, the construction sector has it's problems, certainly when it comes to the negative impact it can have on our dear planet.

In the UK, the energy from fossil fuels used to build and run buildings accounts for about half of our carbon dioxide emissions. Half of that pollution comes from domestic properties and half from commercial buildings, like offices, schools, leisure centres and hotels.

And there is a direct correlation between non-green buildings and climate change. Unsurprisingly, 98 per cent of the world’s megacities – many of which are jam-packed with inefficient properties – are already experiencing climate risks, such as flooding and dramatic weather events. If developers continue to create buildings in the way that they have done for decades, the planet is heading for a 6°C of global warming. That is certainly the view of the World Green Building Council, which has been looking into these things.

And to stick to within a 2°C rise in average global temperatures – a target most scientists believe is our best chance of avoiding catastrophe – the buildings sector will have to reduce 84 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050 – the equivalent of eliminating 22,000 coal-fired power plants.

It is only when you start looking at the individual facets that make up our built environment that you begin to realise just how big a task lies ahead.

Our subject this week is plasterboard. Of course, it is only a small part of the larger constituent, but improving the performance of this ubiquitous material that can be found in properties everywhere could make a big difference. That’s certainly the view of our guest this week. Tom Robinson is the founder of Adaptavate, a company that has created a bio-composite alternative to traditional plaster and plasterboard, giving buildings everywhere a new set of lungs, as he puts it.

Enjoy the show.

You can find out more about Tom and the Adaptavate team on their website.

Tom Robinson, founder of Adaptavate

Tom Robinson, founder of Adaptavate

Tom has won many awards and plaudits for his Breathaboard product

Tom has won many awards and plaudits for his Breathaboard product

The Breathaboard up close

The Breathaboard up close


This week's news round up with Vikki Knowles featured:

- Management Today's piece on whether it is right governments are naming and shaming non-compliance
- The edie.net Premier League sustainability quiz
- Rio's environmental Olympic legacy
- Waitrose's new pasta packaging


Episode #26 - The innovators turning cow burps into plastic

Episode 26 supported by:

Show notes

We walk a lot about plastic waste on The Better Business Show and the issue gets lots of attention on this show and in the wider environmental media because, on the whole, it's nasty stuff. The chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that harm people and the environment.

On average, 300 million tons of plastic are produced around the globe each year. Of this, 50% is for disposable applications such as packaging.

And plastics manufacture makes up 4.6% of the annual petroleum consumption in the U.S., using roughly 331 million barrels per year. None of this energy is recovered when plastics are disposed of in landfills, and very little is recovered when plastic waste is incinerated.

In 2008, 34 million tons of plastic was disposed in the United States. Of this, 86% ended up in landfills.

Yes, biodegradable plastics are coming and recycling infrastructure is improving, but there are big problems with plastic - from the way it is made, to the way it is disposed of.

So, what if there was a different way of making plastics.

What if there was a different way of making plastics that used pollution as the raw material. so rather than being something that causes environmental problems, the production of plastic actually helps to take nasty greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

Well, there is. This week I was delighted to speak with the founder and CEO of New Light Technologies Mark Herrema who explained how his company is capturing carbon emissions, combining it with oxygen and creating plastics that are being used everywhere.


This week's news round up featured:

1. The new cardboard and bioplastic tents pitching up at festivals
2. The new Hubbub website, sharing anti-litter campaigns – NeatStreets.co
3. Norton Point's new sunglasses made from ocean waste plastic
4. Daniel Matthews' piece on the West Virginian hemp sector


Last week we kicked off our Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future segment of the show with the good folks at Terrafiniti to celebrate the launch of a new brand new series of e-books which offer thoughts, provocations and big ideas for how we might create a sustainable future on a planet of 9 billion people.

So, Joss is back this week for Part 2 in the series as Joss Tantram, a founding partner of Terrafiniti, shares with us his best big ideas – all taken from this brilliant series of new books.

The Towards 9 Billion ebook series is out now and can be downloaded for free at the Terrafiniti website.