Canadian Packaging

Ingeo cold-drink cups have smaller footprint than PP or PET

A new lifecycle assessment conducted by PE Americas, a leading environmental sustainability consultancy, found that Ingeo bioplastic cold cups from NatureWorks LLC of Minnetonka, Minn, have a lower carbon footprint from sourcing through end of life in landfills than comparable cups made with either polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET).


December 20, 2010
by Canadian Packaging Staff

A new lifecycle assessment conducted by PE Americas, a leading environmental sustainability consultancy, found that Ingeo bioplastic cold cups from NatureWorks LLC of Minnetonka, Minn, have a lower carbon footprint from sourcing through end of life in landfills than comparable cups made with either polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Ingeo is the market-leading plastic, among a new generation of plastics, made from renewable plant material, not oil.

Data represent the total U.S. lifecycle of the cups (cradle-to-grave) using landfill as end of life. Results and cup weights represent an average of all scenarios studied:

  • PET: 15.5 g cup / 2.5 g lid;
  • PP: 13.0 g cup / 2.1 g lid (average of two scenarios0;
  • Ingeo: 14.0 g cup / 2.3 g lid (average of four scenarios).

The authors of “Comparative Life Cycle Assessment: Ingeo Biopolymer, PET, and PP Drinking Cups” determined that the manufacture and transportation of Ingeo cold cups and lids consume 30 to 50 per cent less energy from cradle to grave than PP and PET respectively, and emit 24 to 55 per cent less greenhouse gas than PP and PET respectively.

“Our long-term goal is to provide economically attractive routes that will divert products made from Ingeo from being disposed of in landfills,” says Doug Kunnemann, business director, Ingeo Food Service Ware and Food Packaging, NatureWorks. “Since most food service ware today ends up in landfills, it is necessary to first establish a baseline measurement as to how the various plastics commonly used in the food service industry compare environmentally.”

PE Americas carried out the cold cup lifecycle assessment under ISO 1440/44 guidelines for compiling and evaluating environmental impacts of a product throughout its life. The study considered the overall environmental impact of one billion cold drink cups, and included the production of PET, PP, and Ingeo granulate, transportation to cup manufacturing, production of cups and lids, transportation through the distribution channel to retail locations, and landfill as the end-of-life option. The study included a sensitivity study that assessed the effect of varying cup weights and cup manufacturing techniques.

Prior to publication and in accordance with ISO guidelines, the study was reviewed from a technical point of view by an independent panel of experts: Dr. Joyce Cooper of the University of Washington; Dr. Rob Anex of Iowa State University; and Bryan Lemke, an executive committee member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and an expert in sustainability at PepsiCo. Following that, the study was peer-reviewed by Martha Stevenson, project manager at GreenBlu, and Eric Brody, principal, Shift Advantage.

NatureWorks LLC

NatureWorks LLC is the first company to offer a family of commercially available, low-carbon footprint Ingeo biopolymers derived from 100 per cent annually renewable resources with performance and economics that compete with oil-based plastics and fibers. For more information, visit www.natureworksllc.com.