Will consumers use products made from captured CO2?


Would you drink carbonated drinks made with carbon dioxide captured from the smokestack of a manufacturing facility or energy plant?

How would you are feeling if that captured carbon dioxide had been in your little one’s toys, or within the concrete beneath your home?

The know-how to seize climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions from smokestacks, and even from the air round us, already exists; so too does the know-how to use this carbon dioxide to make products reminiscent of plastics, concrete, carbonated drinks, and even fuel for aircraft and automobiles.

That mixture—referred to as carbon seize and utilization—might take up billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions if the applied sciences had been adopted throughout a spread of sectors worldwide.


The important thing to carbon seize and utilitization’s potential is that these products have financial worth. That worth can provide firms the motivation to deploy the know-how on the international scale essential to gradual local weather change.

Carbon seize know-how itself isn’t new. Initially, captured carbon dioxide was used to power oil and gasoline out of previous wells. As soon as emissions are captured, usually from an industrial smokestack through a posh chemical filter, they are often pumped deep underground and saved in depleted oil reservoirs or porous rock formations. That retains the carbon dioxide from reaching the ambiance, the place it will possibly contribute to local weather change.

However storing carbon dioxide within the floor doesn’t create a brand new product. The absence of an financial return—coupled with concerns about storing carbon dioxide underground—have slowed the adoption of the know-how in most nations.

How do folks really feel about carbon dioxide-based products?

For a lot of products made with captured carbon dioxide, success will rely upon whether or not the general public accepts them.

Two of us just lately carried out one of the first large-scale studies to look at public notion of carbon dioxide-based products within the U.S. to seek out out. We requested over 2,000 survey contributors if they’d be keen to devour or use varied carbon dioxide-based products, together with carbonated drinks, plastic meals storage containers, furnishings made with foam or plastic, and shatterproof glass.

We discovered that most individuals knew little about carbon seize and use. Nevertheless, 69% had been open to the thought after studying the way it labored and the way it helped scale back the emissions contributing to local weather change.


There was one exception once we requested about several types of products folks could be keen to use: Fewer folks—solely 56%—had been open to the thought of utilizing captured carbon dioxide in carbonated drinks.

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Individuals within the survey had been proven illustrations explaining carbon dixoide-based products. [Image: Lauren Lutzke/University of Southern California]

Security was a priority for many individuals within the survey. One-third didn’t know if these products would possibly pose a well being danger, and others thought they’d. It’s vital to know that products made with captured carbon dioxide are topic to the identical safety regulations as conventional supplies utilized in meals and client products. This contains filtering out undesirable pollution within the flue gasoline earlier than utilizing the carbon dioxide in carbonated drinks or plastics.

When carbon dioxide is used as a uncooked materials, it turns into chemically secure as soon as it’s used to create a product, that means carbon dixoide used to create plastic won’t flip again right into a gasoline by itself.

What folks could not understand is that almost all of carbon dioxide at the moment used nationwide is already a fossil gas byproduct from the steam-methane reforming process. This carbon dioxide is used broadly for functions that embody making dry ice, performing sure medical procedures, and carbonating your favourite soda.

Total, we discovered that folks had been open to utilizing these products, and that pattern crossed all ages, ranges of schooling, and political ideologies.

Carbon seize and use already has bipartisan support in Washington, and the Division of Power is funding analysis in carbon administration. Bipartisan client assist might shortly broaden its use, creating one other option to hold carbon emissions out of the air.

Over 77 million tons of carbon dioxide was captured worldwide in 2020, however use of that carbon dioxide lags behind. One use that’s shortly increasing is using carbon dioxide to cure, or harden, concrete. An organization referred to as CarbonCure, for instance, has completely saved over 90,000 tons of captured carbon dioxide in concrete up to now.

Just lately, Unilever and partners piloted changing fossil-based ethanol with carbon dioxide-based ethanol for manufacturing laundry detergent, considerably lowering the associated ethanol emissions. Each are cost-competitive strategies to seize and use carbon dioxide, they usually reveal why carbon seize and use could possibly be essentially the most market-friendly option to take away carbon dioxide on a big scale.

How innovators can enhance public notion

Some rising applied sciences might assist handle the perceived dangers of ingesting carbon captured from industrial emissions.


For instance, a Coca-Cola subsidiary is piloting a undertaking wherein carbon dioxide is captured directly from ambient air using direct air carbon capture technology after which utilized in drinks. Though it’s at the moment costly, the prices of direct air carbon seize are anticipated to fall as it’s used extra broadly, and its use might scale back folks’s considerations about well being dangers.