Magic Bullets

Should we be investing billions on new technologies to suck carbon out of the air, when trees do a perfectly good job (if only we'd stop cutting them down)? But what other technological 'magic bullets' are out there? From removing truck tailgate emissions to conjuring food from thin air, are any of them any good?

By: Helen Gilchrist,   2 minutes

In our feature about alternative oils in Strike issue 9 (our first in print), Other Oils’ Steve Bond talked about our obsession with technology being the answer to all our problems – when many of the answers have actually been lying in plain sight for years…or even centuries.

“We’re not against electric cars, but maybe we’re against technology being seen as the magic bullet,” he said. “Shiny new things always being the answer – that heady mix of technology and consumerism. The now is sometimes forgotten in this quest for the future…”

This idea, and the tension between technological innovation and natural/ indigenous wisdom, reuse and recycling, really interested us. So we started by digging around for some other ‘magic bullets’ – pioneering innovations becoming ‘ammunition’ in the fight against climate emergency – to see how they might help…

Turning pollution into new materials

“Welcome to the post-pollution future,” says the LanzaTech website. “Imagine a day when your plane is powered by recycled GHG emissions, when your shampoo bottle started life as emissions from a steel mill… This future is possible today using LanzaTech technology.” The technology – which uses synthetic biology, AI and engineering – feeds carbon emissions to trillions of carbon-hungry microbes that turn pollution into valuable raw material commodities.


Food from thin air

“For the first time in history, humankind can produce food without burdening our home planet,” say Solar Foods, producers of Solein – “the purest and most sustainable protein in the world”. Originating from a natural, non-modified, single-cell organism, Solein is produced through a unique bioprocess using air, electricity and fermentation.

Invisibly fighting food waste

As we explored in Strike issue #8 (Pastures New) , 40% of all food produced globally is thrown away. From farming and supermarket systems to fruit and veg going mouldy in our fridges, it’s a massive issue that needs fixing, yesterday. Apeel is trying, hard. Drawing on nature (“why does a lemon last longer than a strawberry?”), they’ve developed an edible, clear, odourless coating made from plants, which makes fruit and veg last longer – increasing their lifespan by up to three times, without using harmful chemicals.

Capturing emissions at source

Transport accounts for around 20% of global CO2 emissions, with road travel making up 75% of that (around 45% passenger vehicles, 30% freight). Remora has developed a new device that captures at least 80% of a semi-truck’s carbon emissions directly from its exhaust. Acting like a giant filter, the device uses carbon scrubbing technology to strip greenhouse gases from the exhaust – so dirty air flows in, and clean air comes out. The CO2 is automatically compressed and stored in onboard tanks – before being sold on to end-users (anyone heard of LanzaTech?)

Pineapple suede shoes

For every tonne of pineapples harvested, three tonnes of leaves are left behind – creating methane emissions when left to rot that are 20 times more harmful than CO2. Enter Ananas Anam. Whether it’s suits for Hugo Boss, accessories for H&M or upholstery for Hilton Hotels, Ananas Anam gives waste pineapple leaves a new lease of life with its innovative Piñatex® textile. By repurposing agricultural waste into natural textiles, it also creates positive social impact by introducing new jobs in rural areas, while providing a second and diversified income stream to the pineapple farmers.


Read the full story about the race to replace fossil fuels in the first ever Strike print edition, available now. Buy yours and see what other Sparks it sets flying…

Read Helen Gilchrist’s feature about fixing our broken food and farming system in Strike #8

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