Sweden is implementing a revolutionary technique of using algae to curb the carbon emissions from concrete. In February, the country’s green party introduced a bill that would commit the country to reaching net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. On June 15, the bill became the Climate Act and the Scandinavian country is now legally bound to deliver on that goal. This cutting-edge science was introduced by turning a cement factory from a climate destroyer to climate savior. Sweden a real shot at becoming the first industrialized country to become 100% green.
Cement is the world’s most-used building material and in 2016 alone, the world consumed 4.2 billion metric tons. That is equivalent to roughly 115,000 Empire State Buildings by weight. The problem is that each ton of cement we use produces more than half a ton of carbon dioxide. To put it plainly, the cement industry contributes 5-6% of all global emissions each year. The industry needs to change and now that nearly all the countries hosting cement factories have made commitments towards the Paris climate agreement, these facilities have no choice but to move towards sustainability in order to meet local regulations.
The Swedish scientists have found a way to wield naturally occurring algae to capture carbon dioxide coming from the cement plant before it enters the atmosphere. Algae use the same process as trees to convert carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight into sugars and other nutrients needed to grow. This process supercharges the photosynthesis of the algae and in a single pass through the mixture, about 40% of the carbon dioxide is absorbed. The size of the plant is modest, but early tests show that the algae is growing at a steady rate. Sweden officials believe that this will bring them a step closer to being able to scale up this technology to commercial levels.