A Closer Look at Bioplastics: What Is Polylactic Acid (PLA)?
Bioplastics are becoming a popular trend in today's packaging industry, as manufacturers look to renewable resources for a more sustainable alternative to oil-based plastics. From starch-based loose fill packaging to bottles made from 100% agricultural waste, these materials are helping pave the way toward a safer, healthier future.
Understanding PLA: Polylactic acid (PLA) is a material made from corn starch in the United States, and tapioca products or sugarcane in other parts of the world. Using renewable resources helps to reduce our dependence on harmful, costly fossil fuels, while PLA's ability to biodegrade contributes to less packaging waste in the earth's landfills. In order for significant breakdown of the material after disposal, there must be more than 60% starch content within the packaging.
Common PLA Applications: PLA is a versatile material that can be manufactured into durable, flexible packaging just as strong and effective as traditional oil-based plastics. Common applications include food containers, disposable cutlery, poly bags, shrink films and thermoformed trays. With the ability to perform within a wide range of temperatures, the material is ideal for frozen meal trays or microwavable applications.
The Future of Bioplastics: Many big-name companies are moving toward bioplastic packaging in order to meet the demands of more environmentally-conscious consumers. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo recently introduced bioplastic beverage bottles. Target currently uses six PLA packages in its SuperTarget bakery and deli areas. L'Oreal USA continues to test out PLA materials for its beauty products.