From Plants to Plastics

Ingeo plastics and fibers are transforming the everyday products found on retail shelves and in consumers’ homes around the world. Here is a look at how we turn simple plant sugar into this ingenious material made from plants, not oil.


Ingeo Biopolymer Starts with Plants

This revolutionary bioplastic is made up of long molecular chains of the polymer polylactide. It is derived from naturally-occurring plant sugar.

sugar-cane-feedstock corn-feedstock woodchips-feedstock

Ingeo is made from dextrose (sugar) that is derived from field corn already grown for many industrial & functional end-uses. In North America, corn has been used first because it is the most economically feasible source of plant starches.

We use less than 1/25th of 1% (0.04%) of the annual global corn crop today, so there’s little to no impact on food prices or supply(1).

Our process does not require corn; we only need a sugar source. In the future this will include cellulosic raw materials, agricultural wastes and non-food plants.



carbon-dioxide-molecule Carbon Dioxide
from the air is absorbed by the leaves of a plant.
water-molecule Water
is taken in from the soil by the roots.
sun Sunlight

provides the energy needed to transform carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen - a process called photosynthesis.

Glucose (Sugar)

is made by the plant and used as fuel. Any unused sugar is stored as starch and can be harvested to use for making Ingeo biopolymer.

is released back into the atmosphere.




convert the sugar into lactic acid through fermentation.

Dextrose (Sugar)

is created from the harvested plant starch (made during photosynthesis) through a process called hydrolysis.
Lactic Acid102

Lactic Acid Molecules

A 2-step process transforms the lactic acid molecules into rings of lactide.
Lactide Ring102

Lactide Ring

opens and linkes together to form a long chain of polylactide polymer. This is the process of polymerization.

Polymer Chain A chain of polymer can consist of tens of thousands of units linked together.


Ingeo Pellets

Ingeo Pellets

The plastic is then formed into Ingeo pellets and is used by our partners to make a wide-range of products including food serviceware, fresh food packaging, consumer electronics, flexible films, cards, nonwovens, apparel and more.


Innovating with Ingeo

Once we've made our Ingeo biopolymer, our partners transform it into innovative products including food serviceware, fresh food packaging, electronics, flexible films, cards, nonwovens, apparel and home textiles. Since the Ingeo carbon footprint for Ingeo is 75%(2) lower than traditional materials like PS or PET, our partners are able to offer consumers a more responsible choice in buying everyday items.

container-icon serviceware-icon durables-icon apperel-icon  
films-icon nonwovens-icon homeware-icon cards-icon Folded Cartons


More End-of-Life-Options 

Ingeo has more end-of-life options than any traditional plastic. Products made with Ingeo are compatible with existing recycling systems, can be cleanly incinerated, and are completely stable in landfill – still the unfortunate fate for most of today’s plastics. When thinking about environmental impact, it’s important to recognize that true eco-advantage starts at the beginning. By design, using Ingeo results in 75% less greenhouse gases than the oil-based PET or PS plastic it replaces, even if both end up in a landfill.

composting-icon Feedstock-Recovery-Icon recycling-icon incineration-icon landfill-icon

More importantly, using Ingeo creates two new opportunities to help achieve a zero-waste environment.

First, food serviceware products made from Ingeo plastic can be industrial composted – a much needed solution when disposable utensils are contaminated with food remnants. This organics recovery is already successfully diverting food waste from landfill to compost. Check out case studies showing how Ingeo is helping teams across the United States and Europe reduce their environmental impact here.

Second, feedstock recovery is an innovative low-carbon method of materials recovery. Products made from Ingeo biopolymer can be easily converted back into lactic acid. This is both a useful industrial feedstock and the basic chemical used to create Ingeo biopolymer.

(1) 2011 World Corn Production: 32.124bn bu. At capacity NatureWorks uses 2.5lbs of corn per lb of Ingeo biopolymer manufactured.

(2) Comparison between the eco-profile data for Ingeo (2014) and an average of PET & PS data from US Producers (American Chemistry Council, 2011).

Plants to Plastics

Download the Plants to Plastics poster here!

How Ingeo biopolymer is made

Case Study

Minnesots Wild Logo

Ingeo serviceware helped the Xcel Energy Center and the Minnesota Wild reduce trash by 50% and increase recycling rate to 50% in just 2 years.

Case studies on teams & venues with similar achievements

Natureworks LLC London Olympics
Natureworks LLC Pittsburgh Pirates
Natureworks LLC Portland Trail Blazers

Where to Buy

Search for partners that manufacture Ingeo™ natural plastic innovations >


Ingeo's recent eco-profile shows it takes 50% less non-renewable energy & creates 75% less greenhouse gases to make Ingeo over traditional plastics like PET & PS.

Natureworks LLC See the full comparisons
Natureworks LLC Read the complete report
Natureworks LLC Read the press release

Regulatory Affairs

Visit our Regulatory Affairs section for compliance information on:

and more...

Tweets ahoy!

Keep up on NatureWorks & on interesting bits from around our industry.


follow us on Twitter

Ingeo News

Volume 12, Issue 1 is now out!

Read about new durables formulations, 3D printing suppliers guide & preferred foodservice suppliers highlighted at NPE 2015.

Sign up here to receive Ingeo News!