June 28, 2010

Turning corn into cups, bags

The headline for this post comes from an article by Ross Boettcher that appeared in the Sunday Omaha World Herald that featured a profile of the NatureWorks plant in Blair – the plant where they turn corn into small, plastic-like beads that are used in everything from chip bags to cups to clothing.

The plant recently added a second manufacturing line so it has the capacity to produce 300 million pounds a year. One bushel of corn produces 22 pounds of the beads, which means the plant can use up to 13.6 million bushels of corn per year.

Here's the intro from the OWH article (read the full article here):

Next time you pick up a bag of Frito-Lay's Sun Chips, you'll notice — or hear — something different about the product's packaging.

Instead of the muffled ruffle of typical chip bags, Frito-Lay's recently deployed package sounds more like hundreds of aluminum cans being squashed under a boot.

There's a reason, and a reward, for the noisy bag. It's fully compostable, thanks to a renewable, plant-based plastic manufactured in Blair, Neb., by NatureWorks, a Cargill subsidiary.

NatureWorks doesn't actually make the Sun Chips bags, which were announced on Earth Day in 2009 and introduced on Earth Day this year.

Instead, the Blair company makes tiny, plasticlike beads from the starch in corn, and then sells them to packaging firms or companies such as Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, Target and Toyota. Those companies turn the beads, whose trade name is Ingeo, into products like chip bags, plastic drink cups, food containers, floor mats for vehicles and other products normally made with petroleum-based plastics.

For previous posts we've done on these kinds of products made from corn, click on one of the headlines below:

Corn-based PLA turning up in more places

Sun Chips: There's a bit of Nebraska in that compostable bag

You can’t have Christmas without corn!

Your corn is calling

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