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02 | 2008

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Politics Figure 1.

Politics Figure 1. Results of the utilization of renewable energy and new technology on energy use. Figure 2. The results of the utilization of renewable energy and new technology on the net greenhouse gas emissions. not facilities running for ‘years and years’. For 2006 and 2007, NatureWorks purchased RECs and also for 2008 contracts are in place. The wind energy is being generated by wind farms located within the MAPP region (= the power pool region where NatureWorks’ facilities are located). RECs are only applicable on additional wind power initiatives, not on mandatory wind energy. Figure 1 gives the results of the utilization of renewable energy and new technology on cradle-to-pellet energy use per kg NatureWorks biopolymer. PLA5 is the benchmark. In this production system, 50.2 MJ non renewable energy is required to drive all the processes. If NatureWorks LLC switches to the new technology, a reduction of non-renewable energy can be achieved of 30% (second bar). This new technology is foreseen for 2010+. Since January 2006, we replaced the grid electricity by renewable-based electricity via the purchase of Green Power and RECs. PLA6 shows a reduction of non renewable energy of 46%. When the utilization of the new technology in combination with Green Power is implemented in 2010+, a reduction of 67% in non renewable energy is predicted. Figure 2 gives the results of the utilization of renewable energy and new technology on the net greenhouse gas emissions from the cradle-to-pellet per kg NatureWorks biopolymer. The net GHG emissions in the PLA5 production system is 2.02 kg CO 2 eq./kg PLA. When NatureWorks LLC implements the new technology a reduction of 1.27 kg CO 2 eq./kg PLA can be achieved (second bar). Since January 2006 NatureWorks is replacing the grid electricity by renewable-based electricity via the purchase of Green Power and RECs (PLA6). Since beginning 2006 the net GHG emissions are 0.27 kg CO 2 eq./kg PLA. If the utilization of the new technology in combination with Green Power is implemented in 2010+ the production systems becomes a GHG sink (-0.67 kg CO 2 eq./kg PLA). It may be clear that all numbers are only valid for NatureWorks biopolymer and not for PLA in general. The published eco-profiles are the basic data to perform Life Cycle Assessment studies (see Appendix). In this context this article shall be closed with the following remarks. Quite often new materials, which are in their early stage of development, produced in small scale or singular facilities and for which conversion and final disposal are not optimized, are directly compared with mature materials for which the life cycle has been optimized over several decades. This often leads to a biased comparison. In these cases the ‘performance’ of an ‘adult’ is compared with that one of a ‘child’. LCA practitioners should always include possible optimization steps for immature materials. By not including future outlooks for immature materials, the tool of LCA is becoming a tool that intends to kill innovation at its early stage and that, of course, was never the intention of this tool. It is the key responsibility of the LCA practitioner to give a balanced view. Also for the final reader of an LCA this is important to keep in mind when evaluating an LCA. As people around the globe are working to make mankind less dependent on fossil raw materials, the use of bioplastics contributes to this change in a meaningful way and bio-plastics solutions are a valuable way to demonstrate this important evolution. More details about the Feedstock program, the Ecoprofiles, LCA studies and the Waste Management Options can be downloaded from: www.natureworkspla.com 32 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/08] Vol. 3

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