Washington — You might think that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just ramps up regulations and hands out warnings and fines all day long
But sometimes they also hand out awards — to plastics companies, even!
Among this year's Presidential Green Chemistry Award winners were two plastics companies: biochemical company Verdezyne of Carlsbad, Calif. and Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Newlight Technologies LLC.
Carbon-emission-to-thermoplastic transformer Newlight is no newcomer to Plastics News readers, with its 20-year resin distribution deal with Vinmar International Ltd. last year and its 2014 partnership with Dell Inc.
EPA honored Newlight for developing its its AirCarbon-brand polyhydroxyalkanoates, a plastic made from methane-based greenhouse gas, noting the company' deal with Dell as well as Hewlett Packard, Sprint, Virgin, and the Body Shop, among others.
Newlight uses a biocatalyst in a large-scale reactor to convert and assemble carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules into long chain PHA-based polymers. By weight, about 40 percent is oxygen from the air, and 60 percent is carbon and hydrogen from carbon emissions and the resultant resin is considered net carbon negative by the EPA.
Verdezyne was recognized for developing a yeast that naturally produces a chemical used to make high-performance nylon 6/12 for hairbrushes, toothbrushes, adhesives, coatings, fragrances and automotive and aviation oils. "In addition to using a plant-based feedstock and having lower greenhouse gas emissions, this process is also safer because it does not use high temperatures or concentrated nitric acid," EPA said in a news release about the awards. The yeast has already qualified for the USDA-certified Biobased label.
The Presidential Green Chemistry award is in its 21st year, with winners responsible for "annually reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air," according to EPA. Submissions are judged by an independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute.