Made of Air – a Berlin-based climate change technology startup, closed a €5 million ($5.8 million) seed funding round for its carbon negative solution.
Backers are Norwegian sustainability-focused family fund, TD Veen, Patrick Pichette (former CFO of Google and chairman of the board of Twitter), the co-founders of Pexip, EQT Group, Tuesday Capital, Thomas Von Koch (CEO & co-founder of EQT Group), and Olympic gold medalist skier Aksel Lund Svindal.
Made of Air is producing a carbon sequestration product that is an alternative to fossil-based thermoplastics. The company is taking the CO2 that is in wood waste products and converting it into a hardened thermoplastic compound. The resultant material is carbon negative and intended to be used in products with high durability and long life.
“Our feedstock is a biomass waste stream from forestry. So the waste stream that we’re looking at is from sawdust and small chip sizes from the forestry industry and what’s happening is in the cut of the trees for timber products – usually for construction – you have a lot of products going downstream from that process and we are at the very end of that process,” said CEO Allison Dring.
She also explains that the waste product the startup is using will otherwise end up at a landfill or be burned for energy where the CO2 would be released back into the atmosphere. Since the products built with that material are intended for use for 30, 50 years, or longer periods, the CO2 is supposed to be locked away during that time.
The startup has some early experimental partnerships with carmaker Audi (for the production of facade panels) and with the fashion brand H&M (for the creation of biomass-based sunglasses). The types of potential products the material could be used for are furniture, car dashboards, or “closed-loop products” used by businesses within their own supply chains.
Made of Air also looks into other biomass waste materials – any plant material that has photosynthesized like rice hulls or tomato stems. The goal of the company is to interrupt the natural cycle of biomass material decomposition when CO2 is released into the atmosphere and create products instead.
The company also points out that making use of timber can potentially replace heavy emissions materials like steel and concrete in construction which is why it is “okay” with taking up the waste.
Is Timber A Suitable CO2 Storage Solution?
Many environmental groups, forest scientists, and materials experts, though, oppose the use of timber for carbon storage and call for better alternatives to the steel and cement industry. They argue that forestry’s sustainability is far more complex than simply the “wood is good” message pushed by the timber industry.
Forests can only regenerate if the lumber industry makes sustainable choices, otherwise, they might not deliver the expected carbon savings. Also, there are arguments against increasing harvest in productive forests as we live in times when forests around the world are threatened by warming temperatures and wildfires.
Made of Air is utilizing a feedstock that is widely available like wood waste to create thermoplastics locking CO2 away for long periods. Their material is designed for durability and long-term usage and also replaces high emissions thermoplastics – a necessary lower emissions option for businesses with not many sustainable alternatives.