American bio-based plastics developer, NatureWorks LLC has achieved a manufacturing breakthrough with its plant-based Ingeo™ plastics. As per the company release, a new proprietary manufacturing process commissioned late last year lowers CO2 emissions by 60% and reduces by 30% the energy required for production of Ingeo™ plastics compared to previous manufacturing process. Compared to the process of manufacturing PET (polyethylene terephthalate) which emits 3.4 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of resin produced, the company claims that new Ingeo™ manufacturing process emits 77% less, with 0.75 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of resin. The new Ingeo™ production technology also consumes 56% less energy than the equivalent weight of PET. The company claims that this advanced production process, Ingeo™ environmentally outperforms all of the most commonly used petroleum-based plastics, including recycled PET.
The breakthrough in the eco-profile follows a decade-long collaborative research and development effort exploring advanced lactic acid production technologies. Research organizations included NatureWorks' parent, Cargill, a network of biotechnology firms, universities, and government research laboratories. The effort was supported in part by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, totaling about US$25 mln. In 2005, Ingeo™ was the first biopolymer to reach the plastics and fibers market in commercial quantities. From 2006 through 2008, NatureWorks purchased Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to improve the biopolymer's already solid environmental performance. With this latest Ingeo™ environmental and energy breakthrough, NatureWorks will no longer purchase RECs. The company will continue, however, to offer the REC option to every organization that has corporate goals for green energy use.