LONDONDERRY, NH — Organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm is switching its multi-packs to corn-based bioplastic and will fund enough non-GMO corn crops to equal the amount of corn used in the new packaging.
Stonyfield is using bioplastic for its YoBaby, YoKids, O'Soy and other brand multi-packs. Replacing petroleum-based polystyrene (a rarely-recycled plastic identified by resin code #6) with plant-based plastic results in 48 percent fewer carbon emissions over the plastic's life cycle.
There is slim recycling infrastructure for PLA, just like with polystyrene, though PLA items can be turned back into PLA feedstock. There are only two PLA recycling facilities worldwide, in Wisconsin and Belgium, and while bioplastics are compostable in various conditions depending on their makeup, the bioplastic that Stonyfield is using is too thick to be considered compostable under the American Society for Testing and Materials standard for compostable plastics.
The bioplastic cups are made with 93 percent polylactic acid (PLA), a material derived from corn and produced by NatureWorks, a subsidiary of Cargill. Once the PLA is created, Clear Lam Packaging adds colorants and additives before turning it into rolls of plastic for Stonyfield to change into cups.
To make up for the amount of corn grown with genetically modified organisms that goes into the PLA, Stonyfield is working with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Working Landscapes program to pay a premium to farmers growing GMO-free corn, equal to how much corn goes into the bioplastic cups.
YoBaby cups - CC license by Flickr user mriggen