Cargill Dow Receives U.S. EPA Green Chemistry Award

Cargill Dow Receives U.S. EPA Green Chemistry Award

a href= Dow LLC recently received a 2002 Presidential Green Chemistry Award for the development of a process to make plastic from corn. The company’s product, NatureWorks PLA, is a commercial-grade polymer used in fiber and packaging markets around the world.

“On behalf of all Cargill Dow employees, the Presidential Green Chemistry Award is received with much pride in our work and goals for a better future – a more sustainable future,” said Patrick Gruber, vice president and chief technology officer at Cargill Dow who was the lead chemist in the development of NatureWorks. “We have successfully developed the technology to use renewable resources and reduce dependency on finite fossil fuels for the production of everyday products such as food packaging and clothing.”

The award, operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a partnership of various trade, scientific, and academic groups, recognizes companies that have found innovative solutions to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances in the production of chemical products. Annual award submissions are judged by an independent panel of chemical experts convened by the American Chemical Society.

Cargill Dow’s process for making NatureWorks PLA was selected for the award because it requires 50% less fossil resources throughout its life cycle than comparable petroleum-based products. In addition, the product generates 15% to 60% less greenhouse gas emissions than the material it replaces. The company aims to reduce GHG emissions by up to 80% to 100% as new technologies become available.

NatureWorks PLA technology produces the renewable-resource-based resin by “harvesting” carbon from plants, such as corn, which has been removed from the air during photosynthesis. This is achieved by tapping into the carbon stored in plant starches, which are then broken down into natural plant sugars. The carbon and other elements in these natural sugars are used to make polylactide through a simple process of fermentation and separation. The company said that, in the near future, it plans to use biomass – including stalks, leaves and wheat straw -- as the raw material for the production of its product.

According to Cargill Dow, while the technology to create NatureWorks PLA has been known for many years, previous attempts looked solely at biodegradable applications.

“The certainty of this technology is that a new industrial revolution with a more sustainable future is reality,” said Randy Howard, president and CEO of Cargill Dow. “The scope of our operation is proof of our commitment to the social, economical and environmental growth of this technology. And, the reality of this is that companies like The Coca-Cola Company, Sony, Dunlop and Pacific Coast Feather Company, to name a few, realize the value NatureWorks PLA brings their brands.”