Why is PLA an Eco-Friendly Plastic Alternative?
PLA – What is it?
PLA (or Polylactic Acid) is a bioplastic. You may also see them term ‘Ingeo’ – This is just a brand name for the PLA material.
An overview of the impact of single use plastics
Nearly all conventional plastics are a final result of a heavy chemical process, that begins with drilling up oils and natural gases (fossil fuels) from our oceans. Through fracking alone (before the plastic has even been made), we find that the risk of oil spills, air pollution, carbon emissions and water pollution is pretty much unavoidable. THEN, once the plastic has been produced, we are left with tonnes of plastic waste that has often been used only once, ending up in landfill and sitting there for decades (or centuries). We also have things like littering which causes plastic to drift into waterways, further affecting our natural environment.
Why is it PLA good?
Firstly we think that the production of the material itself is considerably more desirable than the production of petroleum based plastics. Rather than being produced from finite resources like oil, PLA is derived from renewable resources (often cornstarch, cassava, sugarcane or beets). Manufacturing it produces about 80% less greenhouse gases than other conventional plastics, and it can also be composted in a commercial facility.
- The carbon footprint in producing Ingeo bioplastic is up to 75% smaller than conventional plastics such as PET.
- Made from renewable resources
- Our PLA range is one of the few that are commercially compostable to Australian AS4736 standards. PLA bioplastic will completely biodegrade within 120 days in a commercial compost facility. Composting naturally and organically recycles the material along with any remaining food residue. Compost enriches and returns nutrients to the soil.
- Carbon Neutral
- 5% of profits donated
- Perfect for cold foods and drinks
Things to Note:
- PLA has a shelf life of 12 months
- Needs to be stored away from direct sunlight and in under 35 degrees
- NOT suitable for HOT Foods
- Check before putting PLA into common recycling streams
Is PLA Recyclable?
Technically, PLA bioplastics can be chemically recycled, but they currently represent only a small fraction of the plastic waste stream, and as such it’s not yet commercially viable to do so. The fact that no recycling facilities currently accept PLA in Australia and New Zealand does not mean this material should not be used. Rather, we think we should persevere and educate business owners and consumers on the benefits and help grow and support the recycling infrastructure until it becomes commercially viable.
If it can’t go in the recycling bin, whats the point?
Firstly, we always urge consumers to go for PLA because we think that the production of the material itself is considerably more desirable than the production of petroleum based plastics. To consider that there are 80% less greenhouse gases being produced, and the fact that any carbon emissions are are also offset (by our partners Biopak), we think it is definitely the way to go. While you can’t simply put PLA in your kerbside recycle bin (YET), you can divert it to a commercial composting facility, which supports the circular economy.
While it is not yet viable for bioplastics to be recycled in normal streams, we believe that it will become available if enough people choose to use them.
Want to know more?
For those who want to read ALL the scientific specs and super detailed information about Ingeo, click here. (https://www.natureworksllc.com/What-is-Ingeo)