March 9, 2010

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

Have you seen the commercial of the Sun Chips bag breaking down in a compost pile before giving way to a green plant growing above? If so, you've witnessed a bit of Nebraska. (If not, click here, as Frito-Lay has the commercial online.)

How so?

Well, that 100 percent compostable snack-sized bag is made from PLA -- PLA that is produced from corn at the NatureWorks plant in Blair, Nebraska.

PLA stands for polylactic acid, a pretty versatile resin that can be used in everything from gift cards to coffee cups, from packaging to fabrics - and more. All in all, it's a pretty handy polymer that replaces non-renewable, petroleum-based products like polyethylene and polypropylene.

As Frito-Lay noted in materials about the new Sun Chips bag (click here - .pdf):

PLA is made from lactic acid. Lactic acid is made from dextrose by fermentation. Dextrose is made from starch and starch is made from carbon dioxide and water. Because it’s made with plants that grow annually instead of petroleum (which takes millions of years to form) the impact on greenhouse gases is much lower.

NatureWorks LLC has trademarked this material with the name Ingeo(TM), and this new biopolymer is the world’s first and only performance plastic made from 100% annually renewable resources. Corn-based Ingeo biopolymer offers the cost and performance necessary to compete with traditional petroleum–based materials in the packaging and serviceware markets. Frito–Lay has worked closely throughout the packaging supply chain to develop a way to use this material for our package.

The new 100 percent compostable Sun Chips bag are rolling out to stores across the country by the end of April (by Earth Day, as noted in the commercial that aired during the Super Bowl), although existing snack-size bags (10.5 oz) are already one-third PLA, the company said last year.

Early reviews of the bags have been very positive - although some folks say the bags are noisier than the old ones. As the Sun Chips noted in this Twitter post, though, a little noise is a fair trade off for a lot greener package.

For more on PLA:

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