Organic Farmers Milk the Cow and Grow the Bottle

Source: Steve Meyerowitz, aka Sproutman:

Milk the cow and bottle the milk—that’s what dairy farmers do. But now, they’ve got a new sideline: growing the bottles. They grow corn and other crops that are used to produce a new biodegradable plastic for the milk bottles. New advances in plastic manufacturing use a percentage of maize to make a plastic bottle that eventually degrades into compost.

The new plastic is called PLA (polylactic acid) and could potentially replace the common PET (polyethylene terephthalate) milk bottle widely used in natural and organic foods. PLA is made by fermenting out the sugars from corn. Other plant crops can also be used to make polylactic acid. PLA is then formed into a polymer resin that can be used to make clear food trays and bottles for liquids such as milk. Due to its biodegradable nature, PLA cannot be used for hot liquids or gaseous drinks, like beer and sparkling water or sodas.

U.S.–based NatureWorks, a Cargill company, has invested US$800 million in developing the technology, and Stanelco, its major competitor in the UK, has already received approval for using the technology in the European Union (EU). Using organic foods with natural packaging is a perfect fit because it provides a consistent marketing message. Major retailers in Belgium and France have already switched to the natural plastic. They also like that in today’s economy the price of corn is more dependable than the price of petroleum. Coming soon: Look for PLA on the bottom of your bottle or plastic tray.

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