In our effort to learn as much as possible about sustainable options, we at B&H have been looking at bioplastics as one option for companies seeking a shift to sustainable design. Here is an example that needs to be used to believe.
The concept of switching from PET plastics to PLA bioplastics often seems abstract. There is something cynical in the human psyche that says, “But this can’t be as good, I can’t see it happening.”
Plastudio produces a line of reusable bioplastic products for drinks and food called “I’m Not Plastic”. It was an iF Design Award winner in 2010.
I ordered one and have been using it for coffee. It works great, the design is pleasing, and it looks and feels exactly like a hard PET plastic. It is hard to believe it is made from cornstarch, but seeing, and feeling, is believing.
The above is the bioplastic thermos I bought online from plastudio.
It is made of a PLA derived from corn starch instead of PET materials.
They claim the manufacturing process produces 60% less carbon emissions, and uses 50% less energy.
It is compostable, designed to biodegrade 100% in 3 months in industrial compostable conditions, longer in natural conditions.
It is durable and reusable, therefore requiring less plastic to be made and used.
Keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot.
The greatest thing about this is that it is reusable, you take it with you to the Take-Out coffee place, so it keeps other paper cups and plastic lids from being needed.
Pros and Cons of the Corn-based Plastic PLA (source link)
PLA Helps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
PLA Biodegrades Slowly Unless Subjected to Industrial Composting
Recyclers Can’t Mix PLA and Other Plastics
Most PLA Uses Genetically Modified Corn
Green-Minded Consumers May Prefer Alternatives to Plastics
Despite Problems, PLA Has Many Uses
Other Things to Consider:
Price: Initially bioplastics will not be as cheap as the PET plastics currently in use. However, with the production and use of bioplastics set to rise to approximately 6.7 million metric tons by 2018 (source: Plastic News) the price will decrease, eventually reaching the same level as PET plastics.
Confusion: There may be confusion as to what to do with a bioplastic bottle at the end of its life, does it go in a compost bin, or a recycle bin? (link)
Trade offs: Cornstarch comes from a food crop, which can cause competition with food production and land use; it is possible a supply chain for PLA could cause more carbon emissions than for PET materials; is the energy saved greater than or equal to that used by an industrial composting plant?
Unknown: Since the BPA scare, many of the non-BPA alternatives have also been shown to have estrogen-like effects on laboratory animals. Are there any as yet undiscovered effects of PLA?
To Think about: How might a shift to bioplastics fit in with your brand identity?
Question: What is your understanding of bioplastics and their place in the packaging industry? Please leave a comment below. (Czech or English).