30 März 2005

New Zealand: Vertex puts biodegradable cups to test

Sick of seeing plastic cups and other items polluting your favourite beauty spot? Hamilton plastics goods manufacturer Vertex believes it has part of the solution, but you may have to pay more to be clean and green.

Vertex is introducing biodegradable plastic cups made of internationally proven polylactic acid (PLA) material, imported from the US and derived from corn. PLA is recyclable but also breaks down naturally, unlike polystyrene or styrofoam which can hang around forever.

The Vertex cups were launched recently at Hokitika’s Wild Food Festival and the Round the Bays run in Auckland. Cups collected after the Auckland event are being used in a composting trial.

Vertex is also looking at PLA for a variety of other food and beverage uses. Another Hamilton company, Convex Plastics,is experimenting with PLA for plastic bags.

mantrim The big advantage, says Vertex sales and marketing manager Murray Antrim, is that PLA is made from renewable resources, rather than limited hydrocarbons, and it will break down naturally in the environment.

But there’s a “but”: PLA material is around 35-40 per cent more expensive than the same product made from hydrocarbons. “We’ve got to get New Zealanders to get their head around paying a few more cents for environmental benefit,” Mr Antrim said. Vertex, which makes the green recycling bins used around New Zealand, was one of a number of major Hamilton plastics goods manufacturers, he added. “Hamilton’s become a real hub for plastics manufacturing in the past few years.”

Vertex’s managing director, Paddy Boyle, believes New Zealand has real potential to become a leading centre of making plastics from plants. “New Zealand could be the Singapore of biopolymers.”

He said plastics could be made from any fruit or vegetable high in sugar, but added there would have to be a big jump in demand before Vertex would consider investing in producing raw material itself rather than importing it.

Source: One News, March 24, 2005.

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