Saturday, November 30, 2013

Keep Compostables Clear of Recyclables

More and more compostable packaging is being used by businesses and consumers. That's a good thing. Mixing compostable plastic into a waste stream designed for recycled plastic is not so good however. People in the plastics business, especially the recycled plastics industry are working hard to stay ahead of the curve. PlasticsNews recently published this article "Compostable plastics may help boost cities' food-waste programs".  Imagine a plastic banding strap holding a pallet of barrels together. The last thing you want is compostable plastic (designed to compost and biodegrade) to end up in that strap. On the flip side, you don't want a green washed PlantBottle that was actually designed for recycling, to end up in a compost system. The labeling makes it easy to get confused.

Make sure you and your customers have an easy way to keep compostable plastics, out of your recycled plastics waste stream. We've written about this in the past, and will post some new guides in the near future. Until then, keep it simple. Switch your disposable packaging to compostables in groups, like all your cups, all your cutlery, etc. That way you can have clear signage with pictures showing:

If you can afford to take the plunge, make all your plates, cups, napkins, straws, and utensils compostable and show them in your signs. That way your customer knows to toss most everything into the "Compostables" bin, and "Recyclables" can be for cans and bottles.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Polylactic Acid and its Plastic Food Packaging Applications

Polylactic acid (also referred to as poly lactic acid, polylactide, or PLA) is a biopolymer made from renewable resources such as corn starch and cane sugar. It is biodegradable in a commercial composting environment and has a broad range of applications, including: textiles, furnishings, medical devices, food packaging, and more.

Polylactic Acid Pellets
This article is going to focus exclusively on polylactic acid as it relates to food packaging and food packaging products.

Physical Properties

PLA products are typically clear and look and feel very similar to typical petroleum based plastic products. Traditionally the products have been weaker and more brittle than petroleum-based plastic products (e.g., a hot cup coffee lid could crack or tear when being placed on a cup) but recent manufacturing advances have brought overall strength of these products in line with petroleum-based plastic products.
Unless specifically noted most poly lactic acid food packaging products are meant strictly for cold food and beverage and have a maximum heat tolerance of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many product manufacturers offer custom printing on PLA products and thus the PLA can be colored.


To make polylactic acid, field corn is harvested and broken down into its various component parts, one of which is corn sugar or dextrose. Dextrose is then fermented and distilled into a substance called lactic acid, and lactic acid is than converted into PLA.
Natureworks is the leading commercial manufactuer of polylactic acid. Natureworks is an independent company wholly owned by Cargill, the international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Natureworks produces a PLA polymer under the brand name Ingeo™, and this Ingeo™ resin is what’s found in most polylactic acid food packaging products today. Naturework’s manufacturing facility is located in Blair, Nebreska and has a production capacity of 300 million pounds per year.


Food packaging applications of polylactic acid include compostable: cold cups, lining for hot cups, portion cups, deli containers, clamshells, cutlery, straws, bags, and more.
Typically, manufacturers purchase the Ingeo resin from Natureworks in the form of pellets. Polylactic acid pellets are then melted and used to shape a range of food packaging products. Leading manufacturers include: EcoProducts, Nature Friendly, World Centric, Asean, Fabrikal, Solo, Pactiv, and more.

Environmental Benefits

PLA has a variety of environmental benefits, as it:
  • takes 43 percent less energy to produce than conventional oil-based plastics including PET (Polyethylene terephthalate), PP (polypropylene), and PS (polystyrene or styrofoam)

  • From Natureworks - The Lifecycle of Ingeo
  • generates 48 percent fewer greenhouse gasses
  • and contains no toxins
(the above statistics are specific to the Ingeo biopolymer)
As stated, PLA is also fully compostable and thus when composted results in zero waste.
The Ingeo™ brand of PLA has been certified to be free of any genetic material by GeneScan Inc. (the leading international authority for testing food, feed and raw materials). Ingeo™ does not contain genetic material, and its production does not require any genetic content from field corn.
You can download the full life cycle analysis of Ingeo™ for more.
Have you used PLA or polylactic acid products before? Tell us about an experience you’ve had.

World Centric's Social Responsibilty and Sustainability

One of the criteria we look at when partnering with a supplier is their commitment to Social Responsibility / Sustainability.
On this front, we’re proud to say that World Centric is really head and shoulders above most companies and is a true social leader in the food service space.
World Centric's Sustainability
We mention a few of the things they do on our suppliers page, but the larger list is really quite impressive. So without further ado, World Centric:
  • Offsets their entire carbon footprint.
  • Donates 25% of their proceeds to grassroots environment & social organizations with a goal of eventually donating 100% of their proceeds to organizations that positively affect our world & environment.
  • Tests all products to ensure they are 100% compostable as certified by the industry leaders in composting standards (i.e. BPI and ASTM).
  • Sells 5-compartment compostable lunch trays to K-12 schools at cost to encourage schools to move away from Styrofoam / expanded polystyrene trays that are polluting our environment.
  • Audits all of their factories for compliance with fair labor guidelines to ensure fair wages & working conditions.
  • Encourages employees to use public transportation on their way into work through a $250 monthly reimbursement.
  • Powers their office with renewable wind & solar energy from Palo Alto Green.
  • Regularly hosts community events including a social justice film and speaker series.
For more details check out World Centric’s Sustainability page (again, fantastic transparency here that other companies should take note of).

Monday, November 4, 2013

We are back !

It’s been a long time but we are back to blogging. A big THANK YOU goes out to Dinesh and Arul for keeping the site going over the years. We are now blogging from our new home in Colorful Colorado!!! The site is in the middle of a full redesign and fresh new look. Hopefully the old posts and info will make it through the changes. Let us know what you think.