Tag Archives: environmental

PLA Corn Utensils, I am whatever I say I am..Or Not?

So what exactly is PLA?

PLA also known as  Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) which is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch in the United States, tapioca products (roots, chips or starch mostly in Asia) or sugarcanes (in the rest of world).

In the U.S  a majority of PLA is made with genetically modified corn (Nature Works is the largest provider of genetically modified cornstarch in the world.) According to Elizabeth Royte, in Smithsonian, “PLA may well break down into its constituent parts (carbon dioxide and water) within 3 months in a controlled composting environment, that is, an industrial composting facility heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and fed a steady diet of digestive microbes. But it will take far longer in a compost bin, or in a landfill packed so tightly that no light and little oxygen are available to assist in the process. Indeed, analysts estimate that a PLA bottle could take anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.”

Let’s get one thing straight PLA is not compostable in home compost, go ahead and try…you will be waiting a very long time and it still might not happen. PLA is ASTM 6400 which means a product can be considered compostable if a product has undergone 60% biodegradation within 180 days; the standard is 15-18 weeks at a majority of industrial compost facilities. So these industrial compost facilities, where are they? According to this site in the United States there are 422 composting facilities registered, what each facility is capable of composting I am unsure, you would have to contact the particular facility you are interested in.

industrial compost

So if you buy PLA products, such as PLA single use eating utensils and you do not have access to an industrial compost or you just think it will be okay to throw the fork, spoon or knife in the garbage because it seems natural enough, unfortunately it is not. That fork, spoon, or knife could take hundreds of years to decompose. If you do not plan to send your single use PLA purchases to an industrial compost, I do not see how it would be a rational investment. Not only because PLA utensils will sit in a landfill forever but because they are not very durable, they bend and break very easily and can become droopy if placed in heat. So if you’re not planning on disposing  of PLA properly what have you accomplished?  If you are one of those people who does not have access to an industrial compost or really just do not have time to think about it and prefer quality products, try purchasing biodegradable & recyclable plastic products , for example ENSO plastics.

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The Ocean’s Plastic Garbage – A Serious Environmental Hazard

Our world’s oceans are home to five growing plastic gyres – vortexes of swirling ocean currents filled with degrading plastic that pose a serious threat to marine life.

Captain Charles Moore, noted author and oceanographer, has spent years conducting ocean and coastal samplings documenting plastic fragments along the 40,000 miles of the North Pacific Ocean. Captain Moore was the first to discover the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, otherwise known as the Pacific Gyre, which lies in the northern Pacific near Hawaii. This is the largest of the known gyres – roughly 12,400 square miles in size and growing – and filled with swirling fragmented colorful plastic debris.

Plastic in the ocean takes roughly 600 years to degrade fully. Marine life like sharks, dolphins, whales and numerous species of fish mistake these colorful remnants of our castoff trash as food, often suffering starvation due to the trash being indigestible. Oddly, it’s only the colored plastic they go for, though the clear plastic is also hazardous. Plastic water bottles are regularly found tangled in ocean coral, littering the ocean floor.

Plastic garbage doesn’t just stay in the ocean. Storms periodically break gyres up, pushing waves of trash onto beaches around the globe. Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach is frequently known as Plastic Beach due to its continually being overrun with plastic trash brought in by the ocean’s waves.

This plastic comes in all sizes and forms – discarded toothbrushes, combs, cups and, of course, plastic water bottles. Plastic trash discarded in Asia and Europe makes its way to the ocean, gets caught in the Indian Ocean gyre, then gets pushed back again to litter the once pristine shoreline.

We use 2 million plastic beverage bottles every 5 minutes in the U.S.

“No one is (looking) at it as a global phenomena and at the root causes (to) try to make it stop,” said Cecilia Nord, Vice President – Floor Care Sustainability and Environmental Affairs of Swedish-based Electrolux.

“We need to make it stop,” she said.

“Only we humans make waste that Nature can’t digest,” says Moore.

ENSO Bottles realizes that what’s needed is a shift in thinking as well as action.  By creating their innovative biodegradable plastic bottle with the ENSO additive, these PET-based bottles break down, rather than contribute to the world’s plastic pollution. It’s part of ENSO’s commitment “to act as environmental stewards.”

With plastic trash increasing the world over, and the devastating effect this has on marine life, it’s crucial for consumers to become responsible stewards who take on recycling to a level not seen before is needed.

Individuals doing their part can make the difference.