Company: Newlight Technologies, LLC, Irvine, CA
Company Description: Newlight has invented and commercialized a game- changing carbon capture technology: on a large- scale basis, Newlight is pulling carbon out of air and turning it into bioplastic that is as strong as oil-based plastic and significantly more cost- effective. Following the commencement of sales of the company's carbon-capturing plastics in 2012, Newlight was awarded "Biomaterial of the Year" in 2013.
Nomination Category: Company / Organization Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Most Innovative Company of the Year - Up to 100 Employees
Nomination Title: Newlight Technologies
Tell the story about what this nominated organization achieved since January 1 2012 (up to 525 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes:
Plastic is supposed to be bad. It is made from oil, it generates carbon emissions, and it chokes our environment with pollution. Even “bioplastic”, which can be made from food crops like corn, is simply supposed to be “less bad,” perhaps generating less environmental damage. But, what if plastic could be more than that? What if, instead of just being “less bad,” plastic could actually improve the environment? Can we imagine a world in which, the more plastic we make, the better the environment becomes?
Newlight Technologies was founded in 2003 with a simple mission: to pull carbon out of the air and use that carbon to produce high-performance, cost-effective, carbon-negative plastic. We believed then, as we do today, that the most sustainable way to reverse climate change is to turn carbon emissions into materials that can out-compete existing oil-based materials on price, thereby creating a market-driven solution to reduce atmospheric carbon.
Despite the conceptual simplicity of this founding principle, the science to make it a reality had never been achieved, despite decades of work.
The critical challenge was cost: prior to Newlight, the cost to produce plastic from air-based carbon was three times higher than the cost to produce plastic from oil—an economic non-starter. Newlight’s task was to invent technology to dramatically lower the cost of converting carbon emissions into plastic. After many years of work, endless obstacles, and millions of dollars in research and development, we finally achieved our core breakthrough: an engineered biocatalyst able to produce plastic from carbon gas at extremely high yield—approximately nine times higher than had ever been achieved previously. With this breakthrough, Newlight’s process economics changed dramatically.
Today, ten years, ten patents, and $10 million after our founding, Newlight Technologies is proud to be the first company in the world to manufacture and sell carbon-negative plastic—plastic that reduces the concentration of air, matches the performance of oil-based plastic, and can significantly out-compete oil-based plastic on price.
2012 was a landmark year for Newlight. In 2012, Newlight commenced selling carbon-negative plastics for the first time, generating the company’s first revenues from the sale of carbon-negative plastics. Since the commencement of sales, demand for Newlight’s materials has grown significantly in excess of capacity, with over 12.5 million pounds of Newlight’s plastics now under executed letter of intent for purchase. Newlight’s customers and product development partners include some of the largest manufacturers in the world, including multiple Fortune 500 companies, brand-name market leaders, and an $8 billion consumer goods manufacturing company—making everything from chairs and containers to caps and bags—all products that actually reduce the amount of carbon in the air.
In recognition of the company's technological and commercialization achievements in 2012, Newlight's plastic was named "Biomaterial of the Year" in April 2013. We believe the impact of Newlight’s carbon-negative plastic has the potential to be momentous. With this material, we have a tool to capture carbon from the air, use that carbon to displace carbon that would otherwise come from oil, reduce the cost to produce plastics, and drive carbon capture on a market-driven basis. Our mission now is simple: to grow as quickly as we can.
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Provide a brief (up to 125 words) biography about the leader of this nominated organization:
Mark Herrema is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Newlight Technologies.
Since co-founding Newlight in 2003, Mark has grown Newlight from a scientific concept into a revenue-generating commercial enterprise pulling carbon from the air to produce award-winning carbon-negative plastics. Along the way, Mark has invented a range of greenhouse gas-to-plastic conversion technologies, receiving ten US and international patents, while steering Newlight through over $10 million in private placement offerings, executing a range of strategic partnerships with brand-name market leaders, and leading the engineering, construction, and expansion of Newlight’s carbon capture production platform.
Mark graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Political Theory, with additional work in Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry.