Frequently Asked Questions

Our full knowledgebase is currently being rebuilt, but below is a list of the most commonly asked questions & answers.


FAQ's on the recent investment in NatureWorks by PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited

Who is PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited (PTTGC)?

PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited is a fully-integrated petrochemical and chemical company, combining visionary leadership and innovation in the chemical industry. PTT Global Chemical aspires to develop sustainable growth based on social benefit and global environmental standards under its vision to be the “Leading chemical company for better living through innovative technology and people.  Details are available at www.pttgcgroup.com.
 

Why has PTT Global Chemical chosen to invest in NatureWorks?

The investment in NatureWorks and its Ingeo plastics made from renewable plant materials is in line with PTT Global Chemical’s aspiration to become a leading player in green chemicals with global recognition of their leadership in sustainable development and also with Thailand’s strategic objectives of becoming a global hub for bio-based chemicals, using the comparative advantages in bio-based feedstock availability in Thailand and in the South East Asian region.
 

Does this PTT Global Chemical investment mean NatureWorks next plant location will be in Thailand?

With the announcement of PTTGC as a new investor in NatureWorks, we confirmed in 2012 our strategic intent to build a facility in Thailand. That is still our intent.
 

What scale facility is NatureWorks considering – what’s your planned capacity going to be?

We expect our next facility to be of a scale similar to what we have demonstrated and running in Blair, NE.
 

What’s your timing? When will this new plant be on-line and operating?

Given the type of facility, the time necessary to get such a facility designed, custom equipment purchased, installed and commissioned etc, it would likely be at ~3 years after we firm up our preliminary decisions. With our recent investments in new technology, with associated new grades, and new capacity at our Blair Ingeo facility, we remain confident in our ability to meet the demands of the market. At NatureWorks, our approach has been and continues to be: to do our homework, to tell you what we’re going to do, and then to do it. That’s how we’ve earned the market’s confidence, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.
 

What does this mean for NatureWorks?

PTT Global Chemical’s investment in NatureWorks not only strengthens our balance sheet but, even more importantly, strengthens our commercial presence in Asia while gaining access to large engineering and R&D capabilities in a region where we plan to build new Ingeo capacity.
 

What will be the impact on NatureWorks employees?

There are no impacts anticipated on NatureWorks employees.
 

Will there be a NatureWorks name change?

Both Natureworks and Ingeo are very strong brands in the industry. We’re not considering a company (or brand) name change.
 


General FAQ's on NatureWorks and Ingeo biopolymer

 

Is Ingeo biopolymer edible?

Ingeo biopolymer is commonly used for cups, cutlery and containers. NatureWorks does not recommend ingesting any plastics items such as these. While Ingeo biopolymer is approved for food contact and well-suited for a variety of packaging applications, it is not recommended for human consumption. Ingeo biopolymer, as with any plastic, would be a foreign body if accidentally ingested. Most swallowed foreign bodies pass harmlessly through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Ingeo biopolymer has under gone extensive FDA extraction protocols to be approved as a food packaging material.  

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Does Ingeo biopolymer cost more than PET?

The high cost of crude oil continues to reinforce the growing need for renewable-resource-based alternatives. The cost of Ingeo biopolymer is comparable to other conventional plastics materials. Longer term, Ingeo biopolymer has the potential to even be cost advantaged compared to petroleum-based resins.  

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Does Ingeo biopolymer require GMO corn?

No, special crops or modifications are not required to produce Ingeo biopolymer.  Corn sourced from farmers within a 30-mile radius of our plant Blair, NE is used to make dextrose (corn sugar).  We at NatureWorks purchase this dextrose to make Ingeo biopolymer.  The corn used to make the dextrose is a mixed stream of non-GMO and GMO corn grown in the area. During the manufacture of Ingeo biopolymer, the multiple-stage processing and high heat used to create the polymer removes all traces of genetic material.

We are committed to offering meaningful options and delivering valuable solutions to our customers. For those who view corn variety as an important market issue, we offer three source options – certification, source offset and identity-preserved Ingeo biopolymer.  

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I understand that Ingeo biopolymer does not contain GMO but does it promote the prevalence of GMO into the world?

No, since special feed corn varieties are not required to produce our biopolymer, Ingeo does not promote the proliferation of any specific agricultural practices.  

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Because it’s made from corn, does Ingeo biopolymer take away from the food supply?

No, our production utilizes dextrose as the base feedstock used in a fermentation process (much like beer or wine), which converts sugar to lactic acid. We use that lactic acid to then create a polymer, which is later converted to a variety of packaging and fiber applications. This dextrose is made from No. 2 yellow dent field corn in the U.S., which is already grown for many industrial & functional end-uses. In North America, corn has been used because it is the most economically feasible source of sugar.  When our plant is at capacity, NatureWorks LLC will use less than 1/20th of 1% of the available annual global corn crop.  Our process does not require corn.  In the future we plan to move to non-food cellulosic feedstocks

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Can Ingeo biopolymer only be made from No. 2 yellow dent field corn?

No, at this time we use the dextrose made from No. 2 yellow dent corn because it is the most abundant and cheapest source of a fermentable sugar in the world. In the future, the Ingeo biopolymer could use other sugars or non-food biomass feedstock

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When and where will Ingeo biopolymer degrade?

Ingeo biopolymer offers the most landfill waste diversion options globally of any current commercially available plastic material. It can be physically recycled, industrially composted, incinerated, chemically converted back to lactic acid through hydrolysis (feedstock recovery) or landfilled.

Ingeo biopolymer is compostable in industrial composting facilities where available throughout the world. Under industrial composting facility conditions the temperature and humidity in typical sites will cause Ingeo biopolymer to lose molecular weight and become biodegradable to naturally occurring microorganisms.  

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Will Ingeo biopolymer degrade if thrown by the side of a road?

NatureWorks LLC does not support littering of any kind. If not disposed of properly, Ingeo biopolymer will not reach the typical composting humidity and temperature required and thus will maintain its product integrity in the near term.  

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Does Ingeo biopolymer degrade during usage?

No, Ingeo biopolymer is similar to other natural structures used for packaging, such as paper, which maintains product integrity during use.  

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Will Ingeo biopolymer degrade on store shelves?

Ingeo biopolymer will not degrade on retail shelves. Ingeo biopolymer is similar to other natural structures used for packaging, such as paper, which maintains product integrity during use.  

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Does Ingeo biopolymer disappear when it is put into the soil or seawater?

No, soil and seawater are relatively cold environments that severely retard the molecular weight loss, thus not allowing Ingeo biopolymer to become biodegradable.  

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Does Ingeo biopolymer biodegrade in landfills?

No, due to the low oxygen concentration and drop in temperature, the natural environment will retard molecular weight loss thus not allowing Ingeo biopolymer to become biodegradable.  

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Does Ingeo biopolymer emit methane when landfilled?

Ingeo biopolymer goes through a two-step degradation; the first step is hydrolysis where the material is reduced down to a low molecular weight (<10,000) before becoming biodegradable. At that point the molecule is a food source for naturally occurring microorganisms.

This reaction is temperature and humidity dependent. If there were typical sub-surface temperatures (>3-4 feet) and humidity, it would take decades before the polymer would degrade even to its half-life of 40,000 molecular weight. Methane is produced by organisms during the anaerobic phase of metabolism using food waste as a source in a typical landfill environment. Ingeo biopolymer cannot be a source of methane unless it becomes biodegradable.

We are currently conducting a study on this effect and have posted the preliminary results here

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Does Ingeo biopolymer offer better disposal options than traditional petroleum-based plastics?

Yes, Ingeo biopolymer has the flexibility to be disposed of in several manners and fits most local end-of-life schemes throughout the world. These multiple disposal alternatives mean it can play a key role in landfill diversion. Ingeo biopolymer has been successfully composted in applications where a commercial composting infrastructure is in place. It also shows favorable properties for use where incineration is the preferred waste disposal system and offers potential for feedstock recovery.  

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Can I throw Ingeo biopolymer into my backyard compost?

Ingeo biopolymer should be composted in industrial compost facilities, which contain the right managed combination of temperature and moisture. Therefore, it is not recommended for use in typical backyard composting due to the lack of high temperature and inconsistent conditions.  

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Ingeo biopolymer is designated as compostable in the United States, as opposed to biodegradable in other geographies. What is the difference?

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission publishes the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (aka the Green Guides). According to the Green Guides, Ingeo biopolymer falls under the category of “compostable,” but does not fall under the category of “biodegradable.”

The Green Guides define compostable products as those that will break down, or become part of usable compost, in a timely matter. For composting, a “timely manner” is approximately the same time that it takes organic compounds, like leaves, grass and foodstuff to compost. Biodegradable materials are defined as those which break down and return to nature in a reasonably short amount of time after customary disposal or use. A “reasonably short time” depends on where the product is disposed. For specifics on the FTC's Green Guides, visit http://www.ftc.gov/green.  

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Will Ingeo biopolymer contaminate the recycle stream and damage the value of the recycled materials?

NatureWorks LLC is working with representatives of the plastics recycling industry to study the handling of post-consumer PLA in mixed plastic streams. The current research shows Ingeo biopolymer can exist in the present North American infrastructure with the existing commercial systems for recycling PET and HDPE. In addition, NatureWorks is committed to responsibly ensuring the successful introduction of the material into existing waste management and recycling infrastructures

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Will Ingeo biopolymer in the recycle stream make other polymers biodegradable?

No, Ingeo biopolymer will not make other polymers “biodegradable.” Ingeo biopolymer is a base polymer and not an additive so it cannot introduce its benefits to other polymers simply by mixing them together.  

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What is a LCA?

Life cycle analysis (LCA) is a systems analysis tool to account for all the environmental impacts associated with a product or service, from cradle to grave. The basic data set for an LCA is a life cycle inventory (LCI). In the LCA the LCI data is converted into a series of impact categories (non-renewable energy use, climate change, etc.) and is followed by an assessment of how relevant these impacts are. 

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Does Ingeo biopolymer use more energy and hence emit more greenhouse gases than the manufacturing of other traditional petroleum-based plastics?

Peer-reviewed and published eco-profile data shows that manufacturing Ingeo biopolymer requires 50% less non-renewable energy and produces 75% less greenhouse gases than traditional polymers like PET & polystyrene. 

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Does the energy used to grow and harvest the field corn used to produce Ingeo biopolymer offset the LCA benefits?

The total energy required to grow and harvest the corn actually adds benefits to our LCA due to the plants’ absorption of CO2 and sunlight during photosynthesis. In addition, we are continuing to evaluate alternative energy sources that will make the life cycle even better in the future. Learn more about our eco-profile and life cycle analyses

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Will Ingeo biopolymer availability be impacted by the increased production of ethanol?

No, located in the heart of the "Corn Belt," Ingeo biopolymer is sourced from an abundant regional supply. This supply is more than enough to meet the needs of Ingeo biopolymer and existing feed and ethanol production in the area.  

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I heard Ingeo biopolymer will melt in extreme heat, is this true?

Like most clear or transparent polymer, exposure to high temperatures and humidity can adversely affect the performance and appearance of plastic materials depending on the use. Ingeo biopolymer is currently being used as coated paper liner for use in foodservice disposables and a film application tolerant to higher heat. Our introduction of the Ingeo 3801X resin grade has expanded the capabilities of Ingeo biopolymer for high heat applications.  NatureWorks LLC is also helping customers preserve the performance of the polymer throughout the shipping, storage and handling process. It is recommended that Ingeo biopolymer be stored at temperatures less than 105ºF (40ºC). For more information on recommended care and handling of Ingeo biopolymer, please visit: Smart Care of Ingeo biopolymer

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Are Ingeo innovations only suitable for cold applications?

Although Ingeo biopolymer packaging is ideal for cold-fill or ambient temperature applications, such as fresh-cut produce, whole fruit, salads, fresh juice, still water and dairy products, it can also be used as an extrusion coating on paper for applications such as coffee cups. Ingeo biopolymer is also well suited for the film market including labels, heat-seal overlays, window films, flow wrap, twist wrap and formulations for carrier bags. Ingeo biopolymer offers the performance of heat sealability, where initiation temperatures are as low as 180º F (80º C) and heat seal strengths of greater than 2 lb./inch to allow for faster sealing and increased output.

The introduction of the Ingeo 3801X resin grade also now expands the possibilities for environmentally friendly high heat applications. 

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How brittle is Ingeo biopolymer compared to other plastics?

Ingeo biopolymer is a revolutionary polymer exhibiting a balance of material properties that are comparable to or, in many cases, superior to those of traditional thermoplastics and other conventional materials. Its high stiffness enables more efficient down gauging versus existing PET materials without loss of part strength. Ingeo biopolymer has a unique blend of physical properties that make it well suited for a range of packaging applications, including rigid packaging, bottles, films, labels and serviceware.  

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Why are Ingeo biopolymer parts sometimes yellow in color?

The natural tint of Ingeo biopolymer is a very, very pale natural yellow. Many processors prefer completely transparent Ingeo parts, and add small quantities of a blue tint to mask the natural yellow shade of Ingeo biopolymer.  

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Can Ingeo biopolymer be processed (extruded, blown, injection molded, etc.) on existing conventional equipment?

Yes, Ingeo biopolymer can be processed in many existing operations with minimal changes. Currently, Ingeo biopolymer is seeing the greatest use in thermoformed, extrusion and injection stretch blowmolding applications.  

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Are insects or rodents attracted to Ingeo biopolymer?

No, making Ingeo involves high temperatures and numerous processing steps that leaves no sugar in Ingeo biopolymer.  Therefore there is no food source for rodents/insects to be attracted to. In addition, similar to other polymers, after going through the multiple processing steps Ingeo’s physical state would not be recognized as food.

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Are mycotoxins or aflatoxins ever present in Ingeo biopolymer?

No. Typically, any aflatoxin (the most problematic of the mycotoxins) in a corn wet milling process tends to go to the steep liquor followed by the fiber and the germ. NatureWorks feedstock is lactic acid, which is produced from a purified starch stream (i.e. not steep water, fiber or germ). This purified starch stream is liquefied to form a dextrose syrup before it's made into lactic acid. This is a further control point against any mycotoxins which might have made it through the first control point. It should be noted that this dextrose stream is also used for other food grade uses, and so is carefully controlled.

The lactic acid is subsequently purified, converted to lactide, distilled, times and finally it is polymerized to polymer which is filtered as a melt. The conditions in this portion of the process include high temperatures for extended amounts of time. Based on the Ingeo process, and the previous control, it’s not expected that any mycotoxins would survive into the final product polymer.

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New Investment

NatureWorks attracts $150 million equity investment from leading Thailand company PTT Chemical

Thailand preferred location for next state-of-the-art Ingeo manufacturing facility

Where to Buy

Looking to buy some Ingeo biopolymer?

Ingeo pelletsCheck out our
list of global distributors.

Interested in products made with Ingeo plastic or fiber?

See all the items
our partners have to offer.

The Ingeo Journey

NatureWorks eco-profile Learn how
Ingeo is Made
End of Life Options View our
Eco-Profile
How Ingeo is Made Learn about
End of Life Options

Contact Us

Can't find what you're looking for?  Have a question?  You can email us at inquiry [at] natureworksllc.com.

If you're a current NatureWorks LLC customer, the fastest way to ask a question is via your account manager.  If you don't know who your account manager is please email us at inquiry [at] natureworksllc.com.