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Material Issue

Posted: November 7, 2006, from the November 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

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This polymer can be utilized as an alternative to traditional plastic in cartons, while providing clarity, impact and scratch-resistance, heat-stability and stiffness. PLA is currently more expensive than many petroleum-derived commodity plastics, but its price has been falling as more production comes online. The degree to which the price will fall, and the degree to which PLA will be able to compete with non-sustainable petroleum-derived polymers, is still uncertain.

NatureWorks LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cargill Corporation, produces PLA in the U.S. Currently, NatureWorks and AGI/Klearfold are producing PLA folding cartons. According to the company, these products are competitively priced with traditional plastic cartons and source reduced by two caliper points with comparable structural integrity. These cartons can be printed using offset, flexo or silkscreen, and can be embossed or hot or cold foil-stamped for enhanced brand appeal.

“NatureSource cartons are slightly more expensive than APET folding cartons, but the pricing is considered to be much more stable than petroleum-based plastics,” said Patrick McGee, director of marketing, AGI/Klearfold. “Petroleum futures have been very volatile over the last 10 years, as compared to very stable corn futures.”

PLA will completely degrade in an industrial or municipal composting facility. “It clearly has the power to influence consumer choice and to support consumer products companies’ environmental packaging objectives,” stated McGee.

PLA is not currently being used in bottles, according to Vonda Simon, president, SeaCliff Packaging, Inc. “PLA is not strong enough to hold up in bottles,” said Simon. She explained that the oils in cosmetics tend to breakdown PLA, currently limiting its applications. Additionally, PLA breaks down at temperatures above 105ºF, which is too low for use in products that are not transported and stored in temperature controlled environments, according to Laura Setzfand, director of marketing, personal care division, The Hain Celestial Group. (For more information on PLA and its uses, see “Natural Packaging” in the October 2006 issue of GCI.) This technology, however, offers new avenues to explore, while contributing to the trend of natural ingredients and wellness within the cosmetic and beauty industry.

Recycling Alloys