Ingeo News: January 2022

NatureWorks Sustainability Manager, Erwin Vink, shares how the JRC’s Methodology for Alternative Feedstocks for Plastics Production is unable to offer fair and complete comparisons

The recent European Bioplastics Conference brought together great minds in the bioplastics industry in a hybrid event held physically in Berlin. Read a summary of the event here. One of the more notable sessions came from NatureWorks’ Sustainability Manager, Erwin Vink, who evaluated the results of a study developed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) that assessed the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of alternative feedstocks for plastics.

NatureWorks Senior Digital Strategist, Virginia Thompson, recently contacted Vink for a discussion on the highlights of his argument and the current state of environmental LCAs.

Virginia Thompson: Thank you so much, Erwin, for taking the time to fill us in on your recent presentation at the European Bioplastics conference.
Erwin Vink: Absolutely - it’s my pleasure.

VT: Can you tell us why a life cycle analysis (LCA) framework is so important for comparing materials?
EV: Yes, an LCA framework is basically the only tool we currently have to make comparisons between products from an environmental point of view. The development of LCA tools started more than 30 years ago, but is still far from perfect. In that time, a wide range of different LCA methods and databases have been created. Ideally, we would have one globally accepted methodology and database. Another issue is that several very critical environmental problems, like loss of biodiversity and plastics pollution of our oceans, cannot be incorporated in an LCA, because those methods are not available yet. So, LCA modeling still only incorporates parts of the environmental impacts. For some environmental impacts, such as climate change, the LCA tool could work very well, but currently we see many different calculation procedures and ‘incomparable’ data sets. So, even for this most basic global environmental impact, the tool comes with challenges. The LCA community still has some significant challenges for the years to come. So, at this point, it’s important to be always cautious and critical in judging LCAs.

VT: What would you say are the top 3 considerations to account for when conducting an LCA?
EV: There are many, but I think the three most important considerations would be:

1) Be sure there are comparable data sets. This is, unfortunately, a critical oversight in the JRC LCA methodology. A review of the JRC LCA methodology clearly shows the data (raw material use, emissions to air, soil and water, etc.), which is the basis for each LCA, does not require the same level of detail for bio-based and fossil-based plastics, especially concerning the production of the feedstocks.

2) Assure that the products being compared have the same function - otherwise you could be comparing apples with oranges.

3) Be aware of the limitations of LCA, especially when judging the final results of the Impact Assessment phase in the Interpretation phase.

VT: Where exactly did the Joint Research Commission (JRC) go wrong?
EV: Unfortunately, a globally accepted LCA methodology doesn’t exist, so three years ago, the European Commission asked their JRC to optimize an existing LCA methodology that could be used to make well balanced LCA comparisons between products made from bio-based and fossil-based feedstocks. Over those three years, European Bioplastics had several meetings with JRC in Brussels to provide input, reports, reviews, and comments specific to how bio-based products are manufactured, the relevant boundary conditions, and environmental impacts. We invested a significant amount of time in this effort for many reasons, one of them being that this LCA methodology could become the basis to create policies around bio-based and biodegradable polymer products. Unfortunately, much of our input was not included in the final assessment resulting in a methodology that fundamentally mischaracterizes the environmental impact of biobased materials. For example, the framework does not ask for the same requirements for data sets for bio-based and fossil-based feedstocks. It does not recognize the basic value of bio-based products in how they store carbon (carbon dioxide) in materials nor does it consistently approach topics like (indirect) land use change and biodiversity loss. Finally, it does not come with an answer how to compare mature production systems that have been optimized for more than 60 years with newly developing production systems.

VT: What happened when the JRC’s LCA was published?
EV: The JRC published a study called: ‘LCA of alternative feedstocks for plastic products’ Part 1: the Plastics LCA methodology in July 2021. In Part 2, ten LCA case studies will be presented based on this methodology. In November 2021, the Scientific Project Officer of the JRC, presented the findings of the study at the European Bioplastics Conference in Berlin. We chose to present our findings during the conference as well to provide a critical analysis of the work and inform the audience that the methodology of the LCA is not fit for purpose and therefore should not be relied upon as a scientifically sound basis for future policy making.

VT: Did European Bioplastics ever ask for external support of this position?
EV: Yes, they did. European Bioplastics released a two-page position paper and a press release reflecting this critical assessment of the JRC’s work. They also asked for the support from other European bio-based industry groups, organized in EUBA (European Bioeconomy Alliance) since this issue concerns not only the bioplastics industry, but the entire bioeconomy industry including large global sugar, biofuels, agriculture, forestry, and biotechnology companies.

I really believe we, as an industry, can develop the finest standards for performing LCAs for biobased products and solid databases in which to form those studies, but if comparative LCA studies aren’t accurate, we will just be further from the common goal.

To see the TOP TEN aspects Erwin Vink describes as being missed in the JRC LCA, check out his full presentation below.

Ingeo in Large Format Additive Manufacturing Design

A NatureWorks team featuring Technology Lead, Deepak Venkatraman, Senior Digital Strategist, Virginia Thompson, and Content Specialist, Kevy Konynenbelt, recently visited the IDS Crystal Court in Minneapolis to check out the new Ingeo-based large format 3D prints installed in this local landmark. Made by Dimensional Innovations and Perkins&Will, this beautiful, raw-edged seating is made to represent river rocks and, in talking with Paul Martin of Dimensional Innovations, we learned they liked working with PLA, found significant time efficiency in printing with it, and estimated it was about half the cost of other materials they had used in large format printing in the past.

Look for more to this story from NatureWorks, but in the meantime, check out this article about the project from 3D Printing Media Network. Read the article.

California Law SB 1335 in Effect Soon for Food Serviceware

According to California Law SB 1335, CA state-owned or leased facilities can only use food service packaging that is reusable, recyclable, or compostable. ALL VENDORS* supplying food packaging have to submit an application and be approved by CalRecycle BY JANUARY 14, 2022.

A webinar for manufacturers will be hosted on 1/12/22 to assist - see the link below.

*ALL VENDORS include:
· Food service operations located in a state-owned facility (such as a cafeteria in a state agency building)
· Concessionaires on a state-owned property (such as a food vendor at a state park or beach)
· Businesses under contract to provide food service to a state agency to dispense prepared food (such as a business providing food to a state hospital)

California SB 1335 law details:

SB 1335 Training Webinar for Manufacturers on 1/12/22:

Polymer Application by Means of Additive Manufacturing - Formnext Digital Days

Formnext’s completely online conference, Digital Days, took place in December 2021 and featured NatureWorks’ Technology Lead, Deepak Venkatraman, who spoke on the panel, “Polymer Application by Means of AM”. Watch the full video above to see Venkatraman cover the gamut of Ingeo in additive manufacturing from sustainable feedstocks for PLA, large format printing with a biopolymer, and mechanical or chemical recycling for 3D printed parts made with PLA.

Jacobs Describes Creating Capacity for Sustainable Plastics with NatureWorks


3D Printing

IC3D’s 2021 3D Printed Toys for Tots Campaign

IC3D has successfully organized another annual effort to donate 3D printed toys to kids in need over the holiday season through Toys for Tots. To date, they printed over 61K toys and had over 421 volunteer “Printing Elves” working to produce the toys. Read some “3D Printing Elf Stories” to get an idea of who was behind the work!

NatureWorks has been a proud Sponsor Plus to this program and we support IC3D’s goal to democratize additive manufacturing. Read more.


Green Sports Alliance Announces 2022 Summit

Our partners at the Green Sports Alliance are very excited to announce the 2022 GSA Summit will take place June 22-23 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The 2022 Summit will showcase how sports venues, teams, and leagues, and corporate partners are taking ambitious action on environmental issues. NatureWorks is a proud sponsor of this event. Read more.



Sustainable Bioplastics Asia | January 19, 2022 | Virtual
January 19th at 15:30 Ian Toh, NatureWorks' Commercial Director, APAC presents, "Low Carbon PLA Innovation in the Circular Economy – Market Trends & Investment Update."

Bioplastics Europe Virtual Meeting: How Cooperation Models Strengthen Stakeholder Engagement in the Circular Bioeconomy | January 27, 2022 | Virtual
NatureWorks' Mariagiovanna Vetere will discuss how joint ventures in collaborations can enable growth in the market for adopting biomaterials.

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