About PLA

PLA Bioplastics - a new generation of more sustainable and environmentally               
friendly materials

 

What is PLA?

PLA or Polylactic Acid is a range of unique bioplastics which is both biobased and biodegradable*.

*Throughout our communications, unless otherwise specified, the terms 'biobased' and 'compostable' or 'biodegradable' refer to EN16785-1 and EN13432 standards respectively. It is the responsibility of the article producer to ensure that claims on final products are substantiated by testing against the relevant standards. Check your locally available end-of-life infrastructure to ensure that legitimate end-of-life claims are made on the final product. 

Reduced carbon foot print

PLA bioplastic enable products to be produced with a high biobased content and a reduced carbon footprint. In case of our Luminy® PLA we offer a 75% reduction in carbon footprint compared to most traditional fossil-based plastics. PLA is produced from renewable feedstocks like sugarcane, corn, sugar beet and cassava.

Biodegradation or recycling?

PLA bioplastics are biodegradable which means that in the right environment they will serve as a source of food for micro organisms and funghi. After the biodegradation process is completed only natural and harmless substances like water, CO2 and compost will remain behind. For PLA the biodegradation process will go relatively fast in industrial composting facilities and will take longer to complete in less biologically active environments. Besides composting, PLA bioplastics also offers additional end-of-life options like mechanical and chemical recycling.

 

High heat resistance

PLA bioplastics can already be found in a broad range of established markets, like fresh food packaging, organic waste bags, food serviceware, tea bags, durable consumer products, toys, 3D printing or non wovens.

Most PLA bioplastics of the past had the major drawback that they could not withstand increased temperatures. However, Total Corbion PLA has developed a high heat resistant solution for PLA-based bioplastics.

              

Raw material sources

Sustainable agriculture

Doing business in a sustainable way is embedded within our culture at Total Corbion PLA. For this reason, we also care about the sustainability of our feedstocks. For example, our key supplier of lactic acid, Corbion, is a member of both SEDEX- ensuring an ethical supply chain, and Bonsucro - a global non-profit initiative dedicated to reducing the environmental and social impacts of sugar cane production.

At Corbion, efforts are made to source the sugar needed to make lactic acid in a sustainable way. Corbion uses European sugar beet and Thai sugarcane as feedstock for the production of lactic acid, that is in turn used to make PLA bioplastics. These are always GMO-free crops, which is why Total Corbion PLA can offer our customers PLA produced from GMO-free feedstocks.

Second generation Feedstocks

On lab scale, following an intense research project, Corbion has successfully made PLA resin from alternative, second generation feedstocks. The second generation feedstock was fermented into lactic acid and converted into a PLA resin boasting the exact same properties as current commercially available PLA resins. Second generation feedstocks are those which are not suitable for human consumption, and include plant based materials like bagasse, corn stover, wheat straw and wood chips.

Today, first generation feedstocks such as industrial cane sugar, sugar beet, corn and cassava are used for producing lactic acid and PLA. They are grown following principles of sustainable agriculture and these feedstocks have a high yield per hectare of land.

Answers to your questions about bioplastics

    General FAQ's

    What are bioplastics?
    What are the advantages of bioplastic products?
    Are bioplastics edible?

    Bioplastic markets

    What are the main characteristics of the bioplastic market?
    How large is the bioplastics market - current and future?
    Are bioplastic products fully penetrating the plastics market?
    Can a sufficient supply of bioplastics be guaranteed?
    Can fossil-based plastics be completely substituted by biobased plastics?
    What are the economic advantages of bioplastics?
    How are costs for bioplastics developing?
    Where are bioplastics applied?
    Are bioplastics applied in mainly short-lived products?
    Which retailers and brandowners are using bioplastics?
    How accepted are bioplastic products by consumers?

    Material, properties and technology

    What are bioplastics made of?
    What types of bioplastics do exist and what properties do they have?
    Is there a certain percentage threshold value that marks the minimal biobased carbon content / biobased mass content in a product/material?
    Are the properties of bioplastics equal to those of conventional plastics?

    Sourcing of feedstock

    Why does the bioplastics industry use agricultural resources?
    How much agricultural area is used for bioplastics?
    Is there competition between food, feed and bioplastics regarding agricultural area?
    Is the current use of food crops ethically justifiable?
    Will there be sufficient agricultural area in the world to sustain production of food, feed, fuel and bioplastics?
    Is the use of non-food crops feasible?
    Are GMO crops used for bioplastics?
    How can the industry support the supply of sustainable feedstock?

    Human health

    Can GMO feedstock be used for the production of bioplastics, e.g. for the packaging sector, and does it have an impact on human health?
    Is Bisphenol A used in bioplastics?

    End-of-life

    Can bioplastics be integrated into established recycling and recovery schemes?
    Can bioplastics be mechanically recycled?
    Do bioplastics 'contaminate' mechanical recylcing waste streams?
    What is meant by organic recycling?
    How does composting (aerobic treatment) of bioplastics work?
    Are all bioplastic materials/products biodegradable?
    What is the difference between 'biodegradable' and 'compostable'?
    What are the required circumstances for a compostable product to compost?
    What are the advantages of biodegradable/compostable bioplastic products?
    Do (industrially) compostable plastics decrease the quality of the compost?
    What is the difference between oxo-fragmentable and biodegradable plastics?
    How can one distinguish oxo-fragmentable from biodegradable plastics?

    Is biodegradation a solution for the littering problem?

    Is biodegradation a solution for the littering problem?
    How do bioplastics behave in landfills? Do they release methane gas?
    What is the recommended end-of-life option for bioplastics?

    Sustainability

    Are biobased plastics more sustainable than conventional plastics?
    Do bioplastics have a lower carbon footprint than fossil-based plastics? How is this measured?
    How can the environmental impacts of bioplastics be assessed?
    Can bioplastic applications be compared to conventional plastics?

    Standardisation, certification, labelling

    What are the relevant standards for bioplastics?
    How do standard, certification and label work together?
    Which institutions are involved in the cerftification of bioplastics?
    Which labels for bioplastic products do exist?
    What are the advantages of labels marking biobased property or compostability of bioplastics?
    How are environmental claims of bioplastic products soundly communicated?

    Political framework

    What regulatory framework is there for bioplastics on national/EU level in the EU?
    What policies would be necessary to pave the wat for a full-scale market introduction?

"PLA bioplastics is already the material of choice for many brand owners and consumers that are working towards a more sustainable future"