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What is the circular carbon economy?

What is the circular carbon economy?

We must deal with greenhouse gas emissions (mostly CO2 emissions) in order to combat climate change. One way to do this is through fostering a circular carbon economy, which will help planet earth restore the human-earth carbon balance before it’s too late.

This post discusses how carbon emissions and climate change are tied together and how a circular carbon economy is a key component in the fight to deal with this crisis. 

Carbon emissions and climate change

While there are a lot of contributing factors to the giant problem of climate change, most of it comes down to CO2 emissions. 

Put simply, more carbon = a higher global temperature. As NASA illustrates, higher global temperature can lead to a host of issues such as…

  • Higher frequency of droughts in regions
  • More intense forest fires
  • Melting of polar ice sheets and inland glaciers
  • More intense and higher frequency of hurricanes
  • Loss of species and mass extinctions
  • Poorer access to clean water for people across the globe
  • Death of coral reefs and related marine life
  • Decrease of food security for many people
  • Increase in vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever
  • And more. 

The release or the non-capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into the atmosphere not only increases the global temperature but could present a runaway problem for climate change. 

As MIT Technology Review explains, these higher temperatures can directly disturb and destroy pieces of our environment that naturally capture and store carbon. These are called “carbon sinks” and are things like forests, plant life, oceans, and marine life. As forest fires, droughts, ocean evaporation, and marine life deaths increase due to rising temperatures (and human interaction), even more carbon gets released into the atmosphere. 

This negative feedback loop of carbon escaping can lead to a runaway effect that spells grim consequences for the environment and for mankind itself.

“Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) stemming from human activities are rapidly and dramatically altering Earth’s climate. Warmer temperatures drive longer and more destructive fire seasons, shifting precipitation patterns cause flooding in some areas and drought in others, and ocean acidification threatens marine life across the globe.”

- eos.org

Linear carbon economy

To understand a circular carbon economy, it’s helpful to contrast it to a linear carbon economy, which is mankind’s current dominant model for dealing with carbon.

This is where a product is made, consumed, and then discarded. This is where a product is made using a CO2 intensive process and then the CO2 is simply emitted.

In more detail, a linear carbon economy is when material gets mined, manufactured or processed, used as a product, and then enters the end of its lifecycle, where it is no longer in use. 

An industrial carbon emissions example of this is a utility scale power plant. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA), fossil fuels and coal make up 59% of resources used by power plants to produce electricity. In a linear fashion, those fossil fuels get pulled from the ground, burned to make electricity, and the resulting carbon emissions go into the atmosphere and continue to pollute our fragile atmosphere. They stay there out of sight, out of mind, and out of further use until it’s too late.

But, there are a lot of things we can do before it’s too late. In some cases, we can avoid discarding materials altogether and keep them in play. We can replace fossil fuel based power with renewable power. We can also reimagine industrial processes that emit large quantities of CO2 and instead of emitting it, we can convert it into useful products.

This brings us to the circular carbon economy. 

Circular carbon economy

While the idea of a circular carbon economy is something that we as people are trying to recreate to combat climate change, it really is something that nature is already doing. 

Our world inherently captures carbon all the time, and it’s a process that’s been at play for billions of years. Take what happens when a tree falls in the forest or when an animal dies in its natural habitat. They decompose, then the carbon — a building block of all life — gets stored in the ground to be reused later by other hungry plants. 

This is the circular path of carbon found in nature. And while that’s one example, there are countless others.

As humans, we have the power to replicate this circular flow of carbon through the “4 Rs”.

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle 
  • Remove


There are many ways that both consumers and businesses can reduce their use of carbon. 

Consumers can make it a habit to simply avoid carbon-intensive products and practices in their day-to-day lives. This could be things such as using ride share services instead of driving or trying to purchase goods that were created using low-carbon-use processes and materials. For companies, especially point-source CO2 emitting ones, it’s a little more difficult. But it’s possible! Emitters such as energy providers can look to alternative sources of fuel such as biomass, wind, hydro, or solar power to provide energy to consumers. Hydrogen can be used to increasingly displace natural gas usage. Companies can also strive for efficiency in their processes, so no carbon is wasted or leaked into the environment as a byproduct.


To understand the reuse of carbon, think about plants. Plants pull CO2 from the air during photosynthesis and release oxygen, a clever mechanism that keeps our world healthy. 

Through innovative carbontech, we can follow the lead of this process and capture and repurpose carbon in various ways. At HYCO1, for instance, we take 100% of CO2 emissions straight from an emitting plant and turn them into high value products. 


Landfills pose a massive problem for climate change because they create and emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. In fact, trash heaps in landfills are responsible for contributing more than 1/10th of all methane emissions released into the air every year. (Ensia.org

So, before a product or device gets to the end of its life, there is a lot we can do to delay or even better eliminate its journey to a landfill.

Everyone can make a bigger effort to recycle daily consumer goods. But on a larger scale, companies can implement recycling practices into their manufacturing and production. Like copper. A company can be greener by mining copper from products already in circulation instead of mining it from the earth.


Carbon is removed naturally from what are called “Carbon Sinks”. These sinks are marked by capturing more carbon than they give off. Forests and oceans, among other places, are the best examples of natural carbon sinks. 

While our planet works to remove carbon from the atmosphere, it’s not made to handle the amount of carbon humans produce. We should all work toward planting more trees and preserving the oceans, but that traditionally hasn’t been enough. 

Carbon sequestration is the act of capturing and storing carbon in plants, soils, geological formations, and especially in manufactured goods. Manufacturing is the heart of any vital economy so it is the manufacturing of goods (products and power) that matters most when it comes to creating a circular economy.

That’s why we have to turn to carbon technologies and solutions in order to remove more greenhouse gasses from the air. There are many companies putting money toward carbon capture and removal technologies and we need those efforts now more than ever! However, according to many sources including the NY Times, a huge problem is the cost of carbon removal technologies which unfortunately are typically extremely high.

How HYCO1 Fosters a Circular Carbon Economy

HYCO1 is the only carbontech company that truly makes it affordable for industrial point-source CO2 emitters to decarbonize and join the circular carbon economy. 

We not only bring the technology solutions to our partners, we also bring turnkey project financing. We co-locate with our customers to capture and utilize 100% of their CO2 emissions. Our closed-loop, vertically integrated plants use the most efficient technology available today to convert those emissions into valuable and sustainable products such as…

  • Biodegradable waxes that can be used in many types of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, packaging, and food products
  • Synthetic base oils (Group IV alternatives) that are used to make the most efficient motor oils on the market today. 
  • Solvents that can be used to make coatings, cleaning products, paints, dyes, and specialty chemicals.
  • Hydrogen for use as a clean, emissions free fuel.
  • The options are nearly limitless!

HYCO’s technology gives industrial plant owners a way to reduce, reuse, recycle, and remove their carbon. Because we bring capital as part of our turnkey solution, plant owners can avoid the looming carbon tax while also decarbonizing their manufacturing process. 

If you work at a carbon-emitting industrial plant or if you are an executive that needs a cost-effective way to decarbonize your products, please send our message up the line or get in touch with us today!

Carbon Negative | Planet Positive

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