Some answers to common questions
Whats this Polylactic Acid (PLA) everyone keeps talking about?
Polylactic acid (PLA), is a plastic substitute made from fermented plant starch (usually corn). PLA is quickly becoming a popular alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics. Starch from corn kernels is processed into a biopolymer that looks, acts, and performs like petroleum-based plastics. Most plastics are derived from petroleum, or oil. Oil is the world’s most valuable resource in many ways. It’s also a resource that comes with a lot of negative environmental and social impacts. Our PLA plastic products have the added benefit of being compostable when you are finished using them. Composting is an opportunity to divert waste that would otherwise be disposed of via landfill.
Whats does biodegradable and compostable really mean?
Biodegradable and compostable products are made from organic, natural materials like corn, reed grass and bagasse (sugar cane). These products come from annually renewable resources and are sustainably manufactured, non-toxic while in use, and decompose back into the soil.
Are Upstream benefits real?
Yes, absolutely - "Upstream" benefits are the environmental benefits of manufacturing these products - i.e. before the consumer uses the product. Raw materials used in the production of our products are sustainably managed renewable resources, and there are also less greenhouse gas emissions in production in comparison to standard oil-based food packaging.
These benefits exist whether the “Downstream” option for composting the packaging after consumer use is used or not. This is important to know because our products will not just decompose on their own. They must enter the composting process. This entails putting them into the soil with food, yard waste and other organic materials. Once the biocompostable product enters the compost system, it will decompose over a few months.
Decomposition time is dependent on two factors. One factor is the way in which biodegradable products are disposed of. Biodegradables are best disposed of in a commercial composting system, as commercial compost piles contain large amounts of moisture, are kept at a high heat and are aerated frequently. In commercial composting systems bioplastics are expected to degrade within 180 days. Within a home composting system (where high levels of heat are not able to be reached and where aeration depends on how often the owner is willing to turn their pile) bioplastics can take more than 180 days to degrade. Another factor is product thickness. The thicker a product is the longer it will take to degrade. Many commercial facilities grind or cut products such as biodegradable cutlery into smaller pieces to decrease degradation time.
So is the whole green thing a bit of a have for downstream eco benefits?
No not at all - while our products are designed to return to the soil through composting. If thrown into the trash it will be collected and end up in a landfill. Landfills are sealed which means little biodegradation occurs below the surface, so what is thrown away may not degrade for a long time. However, it is still environmentally better than standard plastic. Bioplastics will eventually biodegrade, while petroleum based plastic will stay around for thousands of years.
Bioplastics are also non-toxic,so even if our products are not composted at the end of their life, they are not harmful to the environment. There are also significant "Upstream" benefits to using our products, whether the option for composting the packaging after consumer use is used or not.
Where do we source Green Cups from?
Our products are sourced in China from a factory which has excelled in producing a variety of eco-cup products over the last 10 years. With its core focus being export (over 90% of the factory output is exported) they have had to meet stringent standards in the European and North American markets. The factory has a number of international certifications including DIN (German ISO standards), FSC (German Forestry Standards), LFGB (German food contact certification), BPI (USA Biodegradable Products authority) as well as ISO 9001:200 and ISO 14001:2008.
The key element for the cup manufacture, the PLA, is a biodegradable resin made using corn which is imported from the USA direct to the factory.