What is PLA made of?
PLA stands for Polylactic acid, which is a resin made from cornstarch. The biggest benefit of this natural plastic is that it can be composted at a commercial compost facility where in as little as 3 months it turns back into water, compost and carbon dioxide, leaving no harmful chemicals or waste behind. Because the materials return back to the earth you’ll often hear the term bioplastic used for materials like PLA. PLA is also popular used in industries outside of food packaging. You can find PLA in plastic film , bottles and even medical devices!
PLA can be crystal clear making it a great substitute for several food service products. You can also find many compostable takeout containers and cups that are lined with PLA to provide extra grease resistance without having to use traditional plastics.
The PLA plastic melting point is quite low. For foodservice cups and containers we recommend not exceeding 112°F. This means you should avoid using PLA for anything hot or boiling.
If you're still using traditional plastic cups for your cold drinks you need to check out our BPI Certified collection of PLA Cold Cups
What is CPLA?
CPLA stands for Crystallized Polyactic acid. CPLA is also created from a cornstarch based resin but additional natural materials are added in the manufacturing and then high pressure is applied to create a material that's more durable and heat resistant than standard PLA. But is CPLA Compostable? Yes! CPLA plastic is also 100% compostable and will completely degrade back into organic materials at a commercial composting facility. CPLA is not transparent and is usually a white color, but charcoal can be added to give it a black color.
Since CPLA is more durable and can stand up to higher temperatures (we usually recommend a max of 185°F) it's often used for things like cutlery and coffee cup lids. In fact the majority of our hot cup lids are made from CPLA
Why is PLA a better choice than traditional plastics?
While it's true that plastics like polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) are more durable for long term use, the damage they cause to the environment can't be ignored. One big issue is that these plastics can take up to 1000 years to decompose in a landfill, and during this process they're breaking down into harmful microplastics that damage the environment. Bioplastics like PLA and CPLA break down back into organic material, which results in no damage to the surrounding ecosystem.
You will often find plastics advertised as being BPA free. BPA is a chemical present in many plastics that can be harmful to our health. PLA and CPLA are always 100% BPA free and 100% petroleum free. Petroleum can be found in popular foodservice plastics like polyethylene and polypropylene.
To sum it up, PLA and CPLA are reliable and sustainable non-toxic materials that you can be proud to use in your food service business. It's never been so easy to say goodbye to traditional plastics.