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At Vegware, we manufacture our catering disposables from a variety of plant-based materials. We use paper, board and pulp, but the big difference is that we don’t use conventional plastics.
A compostable lunch: PLA cold cups and portion pots, PLA linings in our hot cups, and CPLA coffee lids and cutlery
PLA is a compostable bioplastic derived from plant sugars. PLA stands for polylactic acid. It can be made from any sugar, such as corn starch, cassava, sugar cane, or sugar beet. NatureWorks is the world’s largest producer of PLA, and a key partner to Vegware. Industrial corn is the primary source crop at the moment, but NatureWorks are working actively to diversify feedstocks.
NatureWorks refer to their PLA under the Ingeo brand, and offer full information online on how it is made, and end of life options.
Corn plants are milled to extract the starch, in the form of glucose. The glucose is then fermented to produce lactic acid. Next up, a chemical process transforms the lactic acid into a polymer, which can be made into pellets, known in the industry as resin.
Just like a conventional plastic resin, the PLA pellets can be used in a variety of ways – extruded into a sheet or film, injection moulded, cast into sheets, or spun into fibres. PLA has a huge range of applications, but at Vegware we use it for:
PLA pellets ready for a variety of uses
PLA has a low melt point, so is best for cold use up to around 40ºC or 105ºF. Where more heat resistance is needed, such as in cutlery and coffee cup lids, we use a crystallised form. This involves adding chalk to the PLA to act as a catalyst, and then rapidly heating and cooling the PLA resin during production. The result is a product which is heat stable to 90ºC or 194ºF. Vegware’s CPLA products are suitable for industrial / commercial composting.
CPLA is crystallised PLA, for hotter uses like coffee lids or cutlery
The industrial corn used to make NatureWorks Ingeo PLA is non-food-grade, so it is not competing with food for human consumption. The whole plant is harvested, and every part of it is used. The plant-based proteins are used to make animal feed, and the starch has many industrial uses including: in airbags, corrugated cardboard, recycled paper, pharmaceuticals, condoms, and making PLA!
Read more information on food and bioplastics from NatureWorks, the world’s largest producer of PLA.
All of the corn plant is used, creating animal feed and many industrial products.
Vegware’s compostable catering disposables can biodegrade in under 12 weeks in commercial composting, which provides the perfect balance of microbes, moisture and warmth.
Where there is no access to industrial composting, used Vegware should be put in general waste. Vegware’s takeaway packaging is made from plants, not plastic, using lower carbon, renewable or recycled materials, and these sustainability benefits still apply no matter what happens to them after use.