Manufacturing Savvy

Drink Up - Your Water Bottle is Helping the Environment

Manufacturing PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the polymer most commonly used to make water and soda bottles, emits 3.4 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of resin produced. But NatureWorks LLC has a plastic called Inego that is made from plants and not oil. Its manufacturing process emits 77% less CO2 -- 0.75 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of resin. It also consumes 56% less energy than the equivalent weight of PET, according to the company.

The manufacturing facility, located in Blair, Nebraska, opened in 2002 and four years later in an effort to offset all non-renewable energy used for the entire 2006 production of Inego, purchased Renewable Energy Certificates.

NatureWorks has had some help in developing this product and process including its parent Cargill, a network of biotechnology firms, universities, and government research laboratories. The effort was supported in part by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, totaling about $25 million.

The creation of this company is interesting in that it began in 1997 as a Cargill research project looking for innovative uses of carbohydrates from plants as feedstock for more sustainable plastics. In 2007 it became a joint venture between Cargill and Teijin Ltd. of Japan.

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