BERTHOUD, Colo. — As Colorado enters wildfire season, a local company wants to clear the forests of dead trees and turn them into pure carbon.
It's a product that has endless environmental and industrial benefits.
You're in good company this week with Biochar Now.
Just off Interstate 25 in Berthoud, truckloads of dead trees and old wood come to their final resting place.
"We take waste wood, clean waste wood, dead trees, beetle kill pine, old pallets, crates, and we convert them into a pure carbon," said Biochar Now CEO James Gaspard.
The company collects old wood, shreds it, and using kilns burns the pieces at temperatures three times as hot as normal fire for hours in a process called pyrolysis.
"It's a chemical reaction," Gaspard said. "It's cracking out all the tars and lignans and water, whatever is in the cellular structure of the wood, and it creates the cellular structure of the wood into pure carbon."
It effectively locks carbon, that would otherwise be released into the air and waterways, into a solid state to be reused in agriculture and other industries.
Farmers can use it to bind nutrients in their soil.
It can also be an additive product in concretes and plastics.
"We more than double the strength of the plastic over what it was before. Plus, we cut the weight in half," Gaspard said.
Biochar Now takes old utility poles and railroad ties. And, it's brought in thousands of charred logs from Colorado's wildfires.
"Because if you leave the waste wood in the forests, it will rot away and carbon goes back to the air," Gaspard said. "If you put the old crates in a landfill it converts to methane, which is even worse than carbon dioxide."
The company is looking to expand in Oregon and California, two states also impacted by wildfires. And, Gaspard said he believes they can prevent greater destruction, by having access to remove dead trees before the fires start.
"We're not clear cutting," he said. "We're just taking some of the dead stuff out to where, when the fires go through naturally, they don't burn so hot they sterilize the soil. And, that's what's happening now."
Instead, Biochar Now can convert the wasted wood into something more useful for people and Mother Earth.
"Everybody's trying to make their products environmentally friendly and carbon-friendly," Gaspard said. "Carbon is the basis of life. So, it's in everything."
Biochar Now is being recognized as part of Earth Day for its role in regenerative agriculture, which is this year's theme. A documentary will air April 22 on EarthDay.org.
If you'd like to learn more about other businesses we've featured in our newscast, download Denver7 to your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, or Android device and look for the "In Good Company" section.