25 Oktober 2005

Walmart ups Biodegradable Packaging Usage

After a year of research and test marketing, replacing conventional packaging with NatureWorks PLA for just four items, it would translate to more than 100 million containers per year for Wal-Mart Stores Inc..

NatureWorks LLC and SAM’S CLUB, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., co-presented the results of a year-long program to introduce the use of NatureWorks PLA in fresh cut produce packaging at SAM’S CLUB and Wal-Mart Super Centers. The clear, thermoformed packaging will begin to appear in stores nationwide beginning in November 2005, starting with fresh cut fruit, herbs, strawberries and Brussels sprouts.

After a year of research and test marketing, replacing conventional packaging with NatureWorks PLA for just four items, it would translate to more than 100 million containers per year for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

“With this change to packaging made from corn we will save the equivalent of 800,000 gallons of gasoline and reduce more than 11 million lbs. of green house gas emissions from polluting our environment,” said Matt Kistler, vice president product development and private brands SAM’S CLUB. NatureWorks PLA and its ability to provide a price stable product as the price of oil needed to produce conventional packaging keeps climbing higher and higher is attractive to all clients.

Made from Midwestern field corn, NatureWorks PLA is a bio-based plastic that can be used in a wide range of packaging applications from clear food containers to beverage bottles. The material provides the convenience, look, feel and performance of petroleum-based plastic packaging – while being made from a 100 percent annually renewable natural resource.

“We have worked hand-in-hand with SAM’S CLUB and Wal-Mart to demonstrate NatureWorks PLA packaging is not only a more sustainable alternative that consumers desire, but also a sound financial move in this era of unpredictable oil prices,” said Dennis McGrew, vice president and chief marketing officer of NatureWorks LLC. “The cost of our raw material, essentially corn, has remained stable for decades, while oil and natural gas – which is what the majority of existing plastics are made from – has been on a roller coaster ride that has made it difficult for companies to forecast their packaging costs.”

The relationship between Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and NatureWorks began in the fall of 2004. Wal-Mart will be replacing existing packaging with NatureWorks PLA products in a series of phases through the supply chain. Phase One will roll out the first week in November 2005 with four products in the fresh produce aisle.

Phase Two includes approximately eight million more packaging items with cut vegetable containers. Phase Three, just in time for the Holidays, will be new NatureWorks PLA gift cards. The final phase scheduled for 2005 will include bread bags, donut boxes and select tomato packaging.

The technology to produce NatureWorks PLA essentially harvests the starch stored in corn into natural plant sugars. The sugar is then fermented into lactic acid, which is used to create a clear plastic called polylactide (PLA) that can be shaped into a variety of bottles, containers, trays, film and other packaging.

In addition to the appeal of its more sustainable source, NatureWorks PLA packaging has the flexibility to be disposed of in several manners, including recycling and industrial composting, and fits most local waste disposal schemes.

The material has been successfully commercially composted in applications where that disposal method is desired and commercial composting infrastructure is in place, and it has been reviewed by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and is listed as positive for compostable materials. The multiple disposal alternatives of NatureWorks PLA means it can play a key role in landfill diversion.

NatureWorks PLA offers many other environmentally preferred benefits. From cradle to resin, its production uses 68 percent less fossil fuel resources than traditional plastics and it is the world’s first greenhouse-gas-neutral polymer.

(Cf. news of Oct. 20, 2005.)

Source: www.foodingredientsfirst.com Oct. 24, 2005

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