Designing Ingeo Biomaterials for the Circular Economy

At NatureWorks we believe in changing the world without changing it at all. From feedstock sourcing to after-use applications, we design Ingeo bioplastic with the wellbeing of the planet in mind. 

End-of-Life Opportunities for Ingeo

How do Ingeo biomaterials support a circular economy?

The circular economy model is based on a vision for more sustainable manufacturing practices that reduce waste, increase product and material reuse, and support environmental health and safety. Unlike a linear model that views a product life cycle as beginning with manufacturing and ending with disposal, a circular model looks beyond consumer use into feedstock sourcing and the after-use of a product, understanding that products have a life cycle larger than their consumer use and will return to the environment in some form. Circularity means making sure products are repurposed as much as possible by designing them for reuse, recycling, or composting.

We follow these circular principles in the creation and distribution of our Ingeo biopolymer, and we also work to bring these principles to the larger plastics industry. In 2018 we partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to support the New Plastics Economy initiative, a comprehensive strategy for creating a global plastics system based on circular economy principles. Using the three primary ambitions, we partner with customers and brand owners to design biomaterials that source from renewable feedstocks and fit with multiple after-use options.

According to the model outlined in the New Plastics Economy, circularity will be accomplished through three primary efforts: 

1. Decoupling plastics from fossil feedstocks 

2. Reducing leakage of plastics into natural systems and associated negative externalities 

3. Creating an effective after-use plastics economy 

Read on to learn how Ingeo biopolymer achieves each of these ambitions and how NatureWorks is doing its part to create a more circular, sustainable, and renewable future for the plastics industry.

See Ingeo's eco-profile

Ingeo biopolymer is decoupled from fossil feedstocks

Ingeo doesn’t require petroleum or other fossil fuels as feedstocks. It’s made entirely from plant sugars, meaning carbon captured from the atmosphere by plants during photosynthesis ends up as the building blocks for Ingeo biopolymer.

Watch: How Ingeo is Made

For NatureWorks, it's not enough to simply be 100% biobased. We’re committed to feedstock diversification—to using the most abundant, locally available, and sustainable source of biobased carbon wherever we produce. As a signatory of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, NatureWorks is committed to having 100% of our agricultural feedstocks certified as sustainably and responsibly managed via ISCC plus.

Feedstock certifications and commitment to sustainable agriculture

NatureWorks is committed to product safety and preventing leakage of plastics into natural systems

The best way to prevent leakage of plastics into natural systems and the associated negative externalities is to support the growth of robust waste infrastructure. We advocate for the development of composting and recycling infrastructure globally because we don't believe anything should be littered, and we want everything to be collected through the right channel.

In addition, we are committed to ensuring the inherent safety and non-toxicity of Ingeo biomaterial. We are always testing and certifying according to third party standards, like the Center for Environmental Health and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, the safety of our material.

Learn more about health and safety

Ingeo is supported by multiple after-use options, ensuring a circular product lifestyle

Because Ingeo is a biobased material, products made with Ingeo offer multiple end-of-life opportunities, depending on the application. We manufacture Ingeo with the entire lifecycle of Ingeo-based products in mind and partner with our customers in designing the best after-use options for Ingeo products. Composting is an ideal end-of-life option for some applications. Learn more about composting Ingeo products. 

Using biobased materials, we can design products with new functionalities, like the Aries 40-hour face mask that has greater breathability, greater filtration, and can be reused for an entire work week. Read about the Aries face mask.

And, in the right applications, Ingeo biopolymer can be successfully sorted and mechanically recycled. Ingeo coated paper cups, for example, have been certified as repulpable and recyclable in addition to being compostable. Learn more about mechanically recycling Ingeo products.

More about end-of-life opportunities for Ingeo

Ingeo PLA in the Circular Economy

Ingeo biopolymer supports multiple circular pathways. It is manufactured from annually renewable plant sugar feedstocks in a process that emits fewer greenhouse gases than that of petrochemical plastic alternatives. Before being made into products, Ingeo pellets can be pre-industrially chemically recycled into lactide or lactic acid. After design and production, certain products made with Ingeo can be collected, sorted and mechanically recycled for other purposes. After use (and reuse!) certain Ingeo applications, primarily food grade applications like coffee pods, tea bags, and food serviceware, can be industrially composted with food waste and returned to the earth as valuable soil amendment that improves soil health and better enables plants to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.