Corn Plastic (PLA)

PLA also known as Polylactic acid is a biodegradable, thermoplastic (polyester) based upon renewable resources and 100% recyclable. It can be used as a replacement for petroleum based plastics such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) in the packaging industry.

Although the quality features of this plastic are much lower than a normal Petroleum based plastic, who needs a plastic that last forever (see the Great Ocean garbage). Why does the package of a product needs to live much longer than the product inside.

WallMart and many other grocery store (Delhaize, etc.) use this plastic as a package for products with a very short lifecycle (ie. cheese, bread, single-use bags, …). This plastic biodegrades into carbon dioxide and H2O in a “controlled composting environment” in fewer than 90 days. However, what’s a “controlled composting environment”? Corn Plastic is to be composted in a large facility where the compost (scrap being digested by microbes) reaches 140 degrees for over 1,5 weeks.

Anyway, in reality the costumer throws this package in the rubbish bin with all other plastics because he doesn’t have such large facilities and because he has no idea what he’s doing. The idea of producing corn plastic is good but a smart solution to close to supply chain has yet to be invented.

This plastic could be a perfect solution for businesses as McDonalds with extremely short life-cycle packaging. A company as such, fully controls their supply chain and their packaging waste. Ultimatly, this could deliver the company advantage!

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Posted in industrial ecology
One comment on “Corn Plastic (PLA)
  1. jeremy says:

    Very interesting Nicolas.

    The need to develop a cradle-to-cradle culture is very pressing in all societies. In so doing, we will improve on ecological economic efficiency, particularly growth efficiency (throughput/ NK stock).

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