Comparative Life Cycle Assessment Ingeo biopolymer, PET, and PP Drinking Cups

A life cycle analysis completed by PE Americas, a leading environmental consultancy, found that cold drink cups made with Ingeo bioplastic have a smaller environmental footprint than similar cups made from polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene terephtalate (PET).  The study analyzed the environmental impact of one billion 16oz cold drink cups & lids used in a typical coffee retail chain from the production of PET, PP, and Ingeo biopolymer to landfill as the end-of-life option.  The LCA also included a sensitivity study that assessed the effect of varying cup weights and cup manufacturing techniques.


PARAMETERS

The life cycle phases of the beverage cup and lid that were studied included:

  • cradle-to-polymer factory gate pellet production for PET, Ingeo, and PP
  • pellet transportation to manufacturer
  • conversion of pellet into cups and lids
  • transport of cups and lids to coffee retail shops
  • waste disposal in landfill*

*While long term our goal is to divert products made with Ingeo biopolymer away from landfills using composting or feedstock recovery, for now most food serviceware products like cups do end up in a landfill.  Therefore, using landfill in this study gives us a baseline to compare Ingeo-based cups to other plastics.

The LCA studied a total of 7 scenarios that looked at different cup weights and cup production data for PP & Ingeo since no actual data from the same manufacturer exists.  Below we've averaged the data across a few scenarios for clarity.

  PET PP Ingeo
Cup weight (g) [1] 15.50 13.0 14.0
Lid weight (g)  [1] 2.50 2.1 2.3
Transport  [2]
- to manufacture by train (mi)
- to distribution center by train (mi)
- to coffee retail shops by truck (mi)
 
1000
1250
75
 
865
1200
75

650
1250
 75
- to manufacturer by train (mi) 1000 865 650
- to distribution center by train (mi) 1250 1200 1250
- to coffee retail shops by truck (mi) 75 75 75
Polymer pellet production data PEA PEA NatureWorks [3]
Cup manufacturer data  [1] Actual production data Actual production data Based on PET or PP data [4]
Final disposal landfill (inert) landfill (inert) landfill (inert)

[1] Provided by cold drink cup/lid manufacturers.
[2] Provided by cold drink cup/lid manufacturers & a coffee retail chain.
[3] For Ingeo, the 2009 current technology was used to model the lifecycle.
[4] Since no manufacturing data for Ingeo cups was available from a cup manufacturer supplying a coffee retail chain, production data was set equivalent to both PET and PP data in each scenario.
[5] Data for electricity, natural gas & steam production were provided by PEA for all scenarios assessed.
 


RESULTS

 

The results of the averaged scenarios detailed above show that the manufacture and transportation of Ingeo cold cups and lids consume 30 - 50% less energy from cradle to grave than PP and PET respectively, and emit 24 - 55% less greenhouse gases.

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