Carpet made from corn

While the focus of Copenhagen conference was on climate change; there was something else of interest afoot; well, underfoot.

The carpet at the Bella Center where most of the major events took place was made using Ingeo, which is a form of bioplastic.

Ingeo, a product of NatureWorks LLC, is made from plant sugars converted into biopolymers through a process of fermentation and separation. Ingeo biopolymer (PLA) can made into plastics goods, wraps, packaging and textiles.

There’s an interesting poster here (PDF) relating to how the process of converting plants into bioplastics works.

According to NatureWorks, the company purchases corn sugar (non-GMO and GMO corn) sourced from no.2 yellow dent field corn producers within a 30-mile radius of the production plant in Blair, NE. Dent corn is often used as livestock feed, in industrial products, or to make processed foods – the corn syrup that seems to be in just about everything these days.

I’m a little suspicious about food crops being turned to non-food use as not only does it take up valuable farm land, but can also encourage the clearing of non-farming land for the production of crops.

Natureworks says the corn sugar they use is the most abundant and cheapest source of a fermentable sugar in the world. In the future, the Ingeo biopolymer could use other sugars or non-food biomass as feedstock; i.e. – agricultural waste or crops that thrive in arid areas with poor soils.

The good news is Ingeo biopolymer uses 62-68 percent less fossil fuel resources than traditional plastics and shares many of the positive attributes of fossil fuel based plastics.

But just because it’s bioplastic doesn’t mean you can throw products made from Ingeo just anywhere once you’re finished with them or into landfill and they will break down quickly. There’s a big difference between degradable, biodegradable and compostable – and Ingeo is the latter. While it can be composted, the company recommends that once it has reached the end of its life, it should be sent to industrial composting facilities.