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PLA or "corn plastic" is a biopolymer made from polylactide (PLA) that can be derived from starchy plants like corn, potatoes, tapioca, sugarcane, and soy protein. In the U.S., PLA is typically made from corn kernels that are milled and processed to extract the simple sugar dextrose.

These biopolymers perform like plastic, but are made from annually renewable resources like corn plants. PLA offers the cost and performance necessary to compete with traditional petroleum-based materials, but with the crucial benefit of being commercially compostable.

At its simplest level, dextrose is a carbohydrate made of the organic molecules carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen and is a byproduct of photosynthesis. Large fermenters then process the dextrose. Fermentation is an amazing metabolic process that has been well-known for thousands of years in the making of beers, wines, cheeses and teas. It is used here in an industrial capacity to break down dextrose into byproducts like lactic acid which are ultimately converted into long polymer chains.

Ingeo is FDA approved for food contact and well-suited for a variety of packaging applications, but it is not recommended for human consumption.

While PLA is a corn-derived plastic, the extreme heat used in processing transforms it considerably and destroys any immunologically reactive profilin. Because of this, PLA should not cause an allergic reaction.

Our corn PLA resin is manufactured near Blair, NE. This corn is a mixed stream of non-GMO and GMO corn which is grown in the area. During the manufacture of PLA, the multiple-stage processing and high heat used to create the polymer removes all traces of genetic material, rendering it inert once it has been made into resin.

The U.S. grows the most corn of any nation and as a result, the majority of PLA made in the U.S. is derived from corn – and of that, most of the corn is feedstock (not food corn). We recognize the value of sustainable, organic agriculture and follow the debate and the scientific research surrounding GM crops. One day, we hope to bring you exclusively non-GM PLA, but unfortunately the infrastructure is not there yet for us – or our industry.

If GMO is a concern for you, we offer cold cups made from 50% post-consumer recycled content PET. This is the highest percentage available of recycled PET in cold cups – they perform well, and are made from an entirely different material.

Learn More:
EPA Ag 101 Site

Currently our supplier uses the dextrose made from No. 2 yellow dent corn because it is the most abundant and cheapest source of a fermentable sugar available in the U.S. In the future, the biopolymer they produce could use other sugars or non-food biomass as feedstock, but at capacity, NatureWorks uses less than one percent of the available U.S. corn crop.

While PLA is compostable, it will only biodegrade in the right conditions. Commercial compost facilities have the capacity to maintain ideal composting conditions and sustained heat and moisture needed for PLA to break down entirely with the appropriate soil bacteria, yeast, and fungi. In a landfill, our products are stable and do not breakdown readily. Landfills are anaerobic environments that are sealed. PLA does not degrade readily in these situations and according to our suppliers of PLA, it is not a significant contributor to landfill methane. We recommend disposing of PLA products in a commercial compost facility only.

Yes. We recommend that our Ingeo containers be stored at temperatures less than 105°F (40°C). Remember to keep these products out of direct sunlight and in a cool, dry place. Keep in mind that our Plantware™ cutlery is made with a slightly different process that gives it a heat tolerance of about 200°F (93°C). If you need a solution for high heat items, check out our recycled-content products. For more please visit Smart Care of Ingeo biopolymer.