Eco-profiles prove out claims

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Congratulations to Chris Smith for his thoughtful Oct. 12th Perspective, “The message in the small print,” [Page 6], in which he succinctly described the need for environmental claims that inform rather than misinform.

My colleagues and I agree that simply stating that a plastic is made from a renewable material does not go far enough, as Smith indicates.

Instead it is essential for resin manufacturers to look at the entire eco-profile, from feedstock sourcing to shipment of resin. Comprehensive, rigorously developed eco-profiles consider multiple environmental impacts, such as greenhouse-gas emissions, water usage, and energy input.

This profile provides downstream converters and end users with a reliable starting point upon which to base their own life-cycle analyses — analyses that take into account their product and its after-use fate.

Baselines are useful because with vision and corporate mandates, steady improvements can be made.

For example, NatureWorks undertook a rigorous, third-party vetted eco-profile in 2005 to establish a baseline for Ingeo biopolymer.

On a separate track, the processing facility was engaged in an extensive effort to lower environmental impacts during fermentation.

Following the completion of a significant milestone in this ongoing process, a new eco-profile was calculated this year. The new profile showed the lowest impacts in the company’s history from sourcing through shipment of Ingeo resin and compared those impacts side by side with traditional plastics.

The point is that we realized that simply stating Ingeo is a bioresin made from plants, not oil, was not enough for ourselves, our customers, and the plastics industry. We had to dig deep to understand the environmental footprint of this bioresin and then embark on continuous improvement.

Smith also sited a World Wildlife Foundation report out of Germany, investigating the true impact of generating more electric power for electric vehicles.

An equally fascinating WWF report was recently published in Denmark — “Industrial biotechnology — More than green fuel in a dirty economy?” The report explores the transformational potential of industrial biotechnology on the way to a green technology.

I highly recommend it.

Steve Davies

NatureWorks LLC

Minnetonka, Minn.