To answer the first question we will have to go back to school; during our biology and chemistry classes we learned that carbon is the main element in organic compounds and is essential to life on Earth. Without carbon, life as we know it could not exist.
The carbon cycle is a way for nature to recycle and store this important element. The carbon cycle is a process where carbon dioxide travels from the atmosphere into living organisms and the Earth, then back into the atmosphere. The carbon cycle is the Earth’s ultimate form of recycling and is a delicate balance.
Carbon cannot only be found in living organisms, the earth or our atmosphere; if you look into our everyday life you will find out that our lives are almost all based on carbon. From the materials we use like wood, paper, textiles, cement and plastics to the burning of fossil fuels for transportation and energy production. The usage of fossil fuels together with industrial revolution have increased our ability to support life on our planet exponentially (so called carrying capacity). Carbon is the fundamental building block for all organic chemistry. It is the essential ingredient to produce the coatings and treatments our customers depend on to create safe, high-performing, long-lasting materials and products.
The energy sector has started to decarbonize their supply, by looking at renewable energy. Unfortunately for the chemical industry there is no such a thing as decarbonization; carbon is here to stay. For our industry is only possible to look at the source of the carbon, can we avoid the mining of new fossil carbon and use the carbon which is already available? Can we go back to a closed loop system; use nature as our teacher? To protect our planet, the single biggest contribution we can make is to replace crude oil as the source of carbon in our chemistry; renewable carbon is the answer.
For most people renewable carbon equals to biomass, but this is not the only renewable course of carbon. Also the capturing of carbon (e.g. CO2) followed by conversion to materials, or efficient recycling will help us to reduce the need for virgin fossil carbon within the chemical sector. It’s important to understand that the future will be a mix of these solutions and cannot be based on for example biomass alone (this will put more pressure on resources). It is this reason that Stahl joined the Renewable Carbon Initiative; the aim of the Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI) is to support and speed up the transition from fossil carbon to renewable carbon for all organic chemicals and materials. RCI addresses the core problem of climate change, which is extracting and using additional fossil carbon from the ground that will eventually end up in the atmosphere. The initiative wants to drive this message, initiating further actions by bringing stakeholders together, providing information and shaping policy to strive for a climate-neutral circular economy.