There is a growing contingent of environmentally minded startups and researchers looking to recycle CO2 into useful products, with the possibilities including everything from foam mattresses, to lightweight carbon fiber to concrete. The soda industry is one place where you can bet there will be a massive demand for the gas, and its about to get a little bit cleaner with Coca-Cola HBC signing a deal to use CO2 captured by Swiss startup Climeworks for its Valser mineral water.
Climeworks is a Swiss energy startup that aims to collect carbon from industrial facilities through what is known as Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology. Its systems work by drawing ambient air in through an integrated filter system using huge fans. Those filters are made from a material that selectively captures CO2, which can then be treated and put to use in products ranging including solar fuels, agricultural products and now carbonated beverages.
Currently, companies like Coca-Cola HBC mostly use CO2 sourced from factories set up to create other chemicals, such as natural gas or ammonia fertilizer, but produce CO2 as a byproduct that can be bottled and sold. But a CO2 shortage in Europe this year suggests identifying other sources of the gas wouldn't be a bad idea, and CO2 bound for the atmosphere seems a good place to start.
It's worth noting that it will end up there anyway. As a soda bottle is popped or a can is cracked, the CO2 inside is released into the atmosphere. But hey, being recycled one time is better than not being recycled at all. And this is far from the first example of a company making fizzy drinks with recycled CO2, with efforts dating back to the early 2000s.
But the agreement between Coca-Cola HBC is a large feather in the cap for Climeworks, which is at the vanguard of current DAC technology. It has grand ambitions but faces a huge task in making DAC a viable commercial venture as the practice is currently prohibitively expensive. They told us earlier in the year that it costs them around US$600 to capture a single ton of CO2, though they are confident of driving the costs down as the technology improves and more plants open.
"We are proud to be the first beverage company in the world to drive the development of this groundbreaking technology," says Coca-Cola HBC Switzerland General Manager Nigel Davis. "Sustainability is part of our strategic business priorities. We are constantly looking for ways to further reduce our environmental footprint in everything we do. We are all the more pleased that we can now support a local Swiss company. "
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