Using Corn-Plastic as an Eco-Friendly Packaging Material
Using Corn-Plastic as an Eco-Friendly Packaging Material Introduction: For the purpose of this project, I chose to use sheets of corn-plastic as a wrapper for Big Kahuna Burger. The wrapper would be by inches and less than a millimeter thick. The reason I chose sheets over boxes was because sheets can be stacked by the thousands making shipping more efficient and producing less material in land fills.
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The material of this wrapper is corn-plastic, or by it’s scientific name, polylactic acid.
Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as cornstarch, tapioca roots, chips or starch, or sugarcane. This is an environmentally practical material for an assortment of reasons; It is biodegradable, non-harmful to people or the environment and it comes from natural, renewable resources. “The United States uses 20. 8 million barrels of oil per day, 10 percent of which goes solely to the production of conventional plastic such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) [sources: CIA World Factbook, Jewell].
Bioplastics like corn plastic, however, don’t require oil and, as a bonus, their manufacture releases fewer toxins and greenhouse gases. ” (Howstuffworks. com) Pre-Production: •Harvesting of corn requires fossil fuels to run tractors and other machines •Fossil fuels required to ship to factories. Production: “First, the harvested corn crop is soaked and ground so that the endosperm can be separated from the gluten and fiber. This step is typical in grain crop harvesting, too.
Next, producers add enzymes to the starchy endosperm, which converts the endosperm into a simple sugar called dextrose. Then, the addition of bacterial cultures causes the sugar to ferment into lactic acid in the same way brewers use fermentation to produce beer. The resulting acid consists of lactide molecules, which bond into long chains called polymers. At the end of this process, bioplastics producers have pellets of polylactic acid plastic, which can then be spun off into fibers or melted to take just about any form. (Howstuffworks. com). •Low energy and pollution in manufacturing process. Distribution: •Due to thin sheets, thousands of sheet wrappers can be shipped in a single box, making distribution highly efficient. •Less fossil fuels used in the distribution process. Utilization: •Although is a biodegradable material, it provides a stable water proof protection for food. •Wrapping sandwiches of different sizes with the same wrapper as apposed to having different sized boxes for each means less material used. Disposal: Takes a month in a high-humidity composting environment at 140 degrees Fahrenheit to decompose. •Can’t be recycled with PLE plastic. •After decomposition, turns back into its original form as earth that has zero affect on the environment and no pollution. Cons of Bioplastic: •It can only be decomposed in commercial decomposition plants that require large amounts of energy. • Cannot be recycled with regular plastic. A small amount of bioplastic in a traditional recycling plant can contaminate a much larger portion of reusable plastic, preventing it from being usable. Commercial composters in the Northwestern United States only accept bioplastics from food service operations, not households. (This is not a problem for big Kahuna Burger. Solution: •PLA wrappers at Big Kahuna Burger will be disposed of in a special bin and then sent to a commercial composter. This may cost more, but as the bioplastic industry grows and matures, cheaper and easier composting will be available. References: •“What is corn plastic? ” How Stuff Works. July 2011.