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Politics Responsible

Politics Responsible Innovation: Impact with NatureWorks Article contributed by Erwin Vink Environmental Affairs Manager, NatureWorks LLC On October 1, 2007, NatureWorks LLC became a 50/50 joint venture (JV) between Cargill of USA and Teijin of Japan. The company applies its proprietary technology to process natural plant sugars into a family of NatureWorks ® biopolymers, which are then used to make and market finished products under the Ingeo TM brand name. The new JV provides an elegant combination of the ‘front end’ feedstock technology of Cargill with the ‘back end’ applications and polymer expertise of Teijin. This new investment allows NatureWorks LLC to continue the expansion of the Blair, Nebraska, facility to maximize its 140,000 metric ton name-plate capacity. This capacity is on plan to be available late 2008/early 2009. In addition, the new JV is expected to increase NatureWorks reach into key market areas such as the Asia Pacific. NatureWorks LLC is committed to producing polymers from annually renewable resources, which meet the world‘s needs of today without compromising the earth‘s ability to meet the needs of tomorrow. Within this philosophy NatureWorks LLC defined their environmental objectives and concrete plans including: 1. Sourcing raw materials from renewable feedstock 2. Reducing fossil or non-renewable energy use 3. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions 4. Minimizing water use 5. Eliminating waste and byproducts and 6. In a vision of zero waste, providing the greatest number of end-of-life options. A key world concern today is the availability and price of petroleum resources and the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leading to global climate change. These concerns are concentrated around carbon and how to manage carbon in a more sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. Carbon is the major building block of biobased and petroleum-based products, biotech products, fuels and even life itself. The value proposition of bio/renewable feedstock is to replace ‘old’ (fossil) carbon with ‘new’ (biobased) carbon. Carbon is the key The sequestration of carbon from biomass has been a process taking place for millions of years and leading to the huge resources of petroleum, natural gas and coal. These raw materials have been used by modern society for the last hundred plus years to produce polymers, chemicals and fuels meaning that much of the carbon that has been sequestered during these millions of years has been released into the atmosphere within a time frame of 100-200 years. It is assumed that this increase of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) has been a significant contributor to climate change on a global scale. The bio-chemical industry can help remedy this imbalance by closing the short-cycle carbon dioxide loop by converting the carbon sequestered in biomass and crops during the growing season directly into polymers, chemicals and fuels. In theory it is a carbon-neutral system. Of course the bio-chemical industry also needs fuels to drive its processes. The key to success is to minimize this fossil energy use or to replace it with renewable energy sources such as biomass and wind energy. 28 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/08] Vol. 3

Politics Reducing Environmental Biopolymer Bioplastics vs. food ? • For polymers like polylactide (PLA), fermentable sugars are required as the basic raw material. Today sugars can come from e.g. corn, wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, sugar beets, or rice. In the near future the bio-chemical industry will use alternatives like straw, corn stover or bagasse. There are various drivers for this change including: • Avoiding competition with food. It is expected that the world population will grow from 6.7 billion people today to 10 billion people around 2035, so industry has to look for non-food feedstock. • Lowering the costs so more people can afford these bioplastic-based consumer good products, man-made fiber articles and packaging materials. • Improving the life cycle of these biopolymers (less fossil resource use, less greenhouse gas emissions). • More efficient use of land. • More outlets for agricultural waste streams will lead to additional revenues for farmers. • Locally grown crops helping developing local economies which so also become less dependent on the few oilproducing countries today. It is not expected that bio-materials will replace all fossil-based materials, but by replacing a part of them, the fossil resources will remain available for future generations. Today there is some tension on the world food market especially due to increasing prices of agricultural products. This is caused by several factors. A key factor are the growing economies in South East Asia where people are eating more meat and therefore creating the need to produce more feed for agricultural feedstock. Another factor is the policy of having lower stocks in place and increased reliance on the world market. In the past these stocks were used to balance lower local or regional harvests. And finally, to a lesser extent, the increased production of biofuels. All these factors are leading to higher demands and so higher prices. The effect of producing Nature- Works biopolymer in this mix is very limited. Assuming a name-plate capacity of 140,000 metric tons, about 0.12% of US corn is used. Even if the capacity triples in the next 10 years, the impact remains below 0.5%. Short term, the increased demand on agricultural feedstock can be balanced by taking more land into production and increasing the yield per hectare. In many countries the yields are still rather low. Longer term, the increased use could be balanced by switching to the use of agricultural waste streams in combination with the development of other more efficient / higher yield crops. Genetically modified crops are not required to produce NatureWorks biopolymer. Due to the current plant location – Blair, Nebraska, - a mixed stream of conventional and genetically modified corn is used. To meet the needs of the market NatureWorks LLC has developed a three tiered program consisting of Certification, Feedstock Sourcing and Identity Preservation. Certification confirms the absence of genetically modified material in NatureWorks bio-polymer by lot, order, and run. This is conducted periodically through the year by GeneScan, Inc., an internationally recognized certification organization. With the Feedstock Sourcing program, our commercial partners are offered the option to support the production and delivery of conventional corn in relation to their NatureWorks biopolymer purchase. For every kilo of NatureWorks biopolymer purchased, NatureWorks LLC will purchase, verify and deliver 2.7 kilos of conventional corn to the corn mill at a slightly higher price. The last program is called Identity Preservation (IP). For the last two years, large-volume customers with multiple-year supply contracts are given the opportunity to purchase NatureWorks biopolymer sourced and produced from 100% conventional corn. This program requires a minimum volume commitment of 20 million pounds (approx. 10,000 metric tons). NatureWorks LLC is finalizing an alternative IP option, in which customers are given the opportunity to purchase for specific applications NatureWorks biopolymer produced from lactic acid which is derived from a 100% GM free feedstock. This route has the advantage that it can start with lower volume commitments (approximately 5 million pounds or 3,000 metric tons). The volumes mentioned can be shared among various customers. Both options have significant lead time in order to insure execution. End of life options NatureWorks biopolymer (polylactide, or PLA) offers more disposal options than any other plastic. In addition to the traditional disposal options for petrochemical-based polymers (landfill, incineration and mechanical recycling) bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/08] Vol. 3 29

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