MINNETONKA, Minn., July 22, 2015 – The manufacture of NatureWorks’ Ingeo™ polymer, made from renewable resources, emits fewer greenhouse gasses (GHGs) than the comparable manufacture of all common petrochemical-based plastic according to an independent peer-reviewed article published in the June 2015 edition of Industrial Biotechnology.
The article, “Life Cycle Inventory and Impact Assessment Data for 2014 Ingeo™ Polylactide Production,” was peer reviewed and approved for publication in Industrial Biotechnology by an independent panel of experts.
“This report provides detailed description of the different steps in the Ingeo production chain and how the final data were calculated,” wrote authors Erwin T.H. Vink, Environmental Affairs Manager, and Steve Davies, Public Affairs Director, NatureWorks. The article documents the energy and GHG inputs and outputs of the Ingeo production system, the revised 2014 Ingeo eco-profile, and the calculation and evaluation of a comprehensive set of environmental indicators. The article also addresses other topics such as land use, land use change, and water use.
To help brand owners and researchers directly use this life cycle assessment data, NatureWorks has developed and made available an Environmental Benefits Calculator, which provides users with a powerful tool for comparing the net GHG emissions and the non-renewable energy use of products made with different plastic types. The online calculator provides an intuitive interface from which manufacturers and brands can input product data details and receive instantaneous feedback on the environmental impact of the materials they are using.
The revised eco-profile (the cradle-to-polymer life cycle inventory data), which is based on the latest version of Thinkstep’s (PE INTERNATIONAL) GaBi LCA software and database, follows the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards and reinforces the fact that the production of Ingeo polymer emits fewer greenhouse gases and consumes less non-renewable energy compared to commonly used plastics such as polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and ABS.
The eco-profile of a polymer gives information such as the total energy and raw materials consumed, and the total emissions to air, water, and soil from the cradle to the finished polymer pellet. A life cycle inventory (LCI) is an essential input to any full life cycle assessment (LCA) conducted on consumer products made from that polymer. NatureWorks works closely with brand owners, manufacturers, universities, and other research groups in using life cycle assessment to compare the impact of various material types on products.
“Our most recent eco-profile in 2010 was calculated using the methodology, the modeling software, and core database in place at the time,” said Erwin Vink. “The same approach was used by such industry organizations as PlasticsEurope since the beginning of the 1990s to calculate the eco-profiles for the fossil-based polymers. However, LCA tools and databases have progressed in the past four years, and we decided it was time to recalculate the eco-profile based on those advancements.”
The Industrial Biotechnology peer review actually constitutes a second level review of the latest Ingeo eco-profile. Before the article was written, Thinkstep, one of the world’s leading LCA consultants, reviewed the work and concluded that NatureWorks’ Ingeo calculations and data were scientifically and technically valid and consistent with ISO 14040 and 14044 standards.
Cradle-to-Gate Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The chart below compares the greenhouse gas emissions (including biogenic carbon uptake in the case of Ingeo) for Ingeo manufacture with the emissions resulting from the manufacture of a number of different polymers produced in the US and Europe using the latest available industry assessments for each. The numbers represent the totals for the first part of the life cycle of the polymers, starting with fossil or renewable feedstock production up to and including the final polymerization step.
For further information, see the NatureWorks eco-profile webpage. In the near future, LCA practitioners interested in accessing the full eco-profile will be able to download it in such file formats as xls and GaBi.
NatureWorks LLC is a company dedicated to meeting the world’s needs today without compromising the earth’s ability to meet the needs of tomorrow. Today, NatureWorks is a world leading biopolymers supplier and innovator with its Ingeo portfolio of naturally advanced materials made from renewable, abundant feedstocks with performance and economics that compete with oil-based intermediates, plastics, and fibers, and provide brand owners new cradle-to-cradle options after the use of their products. NatureWorks is jointly owned by Thailand’s largest chemical producer, PTT Global Chemical, and Cargill, which provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world. For general information on NatureWorks and Ingeo, visit www.natureworksllc.com.