Danone, the French world leading food company, is now taking its first steps towards PLA (PolyLactic Acid) packaging, the biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, and will thereby be the first company in Europe to do so.
The company is saying that, changing from Polystyrene to PLA, they will be able to improve their packaging carbon footprint for its Activia brand by 25%, and also cut down on their use of hydrocarbons by around 43%.
The Heidelberg-based institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) is backing up these claims by a detailed life cycle assessment study they have conducted. They compared the original oil-based polystyrene cup with the new PLA one, from production to recycling. And they discovered that over 95% was renewable raw materials.
“It is increasingly vital for companies and brands to realize that the path ahead is one of technological investment, sustainable development and high quality in all aspects of product production, packaging included”, says the CEO Andreas Ostermayr.
Danone says that the possibilities of PLA packaging being reused and recycled into new products is what drives them to keep going and striving for more. The company Nature Works is now partnering up with Danone on this project. The two groups are currently working on a cup that will guarantee the smallest possible environmental impact in every way, such as use, disposal and reuse.
The redesign also includes the banderole of the cup, the outer packaging and the lids. All these paper components are made primarily of recycling or FSC-certified paper, while the lids are made out of paper PET, and not aluminum or plastic like earlier.
Even though it all sounds good, scientist have found some disadvantages associated with the PLA packaging, for example the possible contamination of soil and water. Despite this, Nature Works, Danone and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are working together to achieve the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) for the latest version of Danone’s Activia packaging.
“The firm’s packaging consists of approximately 18% of the carbon dioxide emissions of our products. That is a strong lever for sustainable changes and for the attainment of our environmental goals”, says Ostermayr. For Danone´s new Activia cups, PLA made of maize starch is definitely the most suitable material.
But despite the good effect the PLA has had, the company is not stopping here. For Danone this is just the beginning of it’s sustainability drive.They are indeed already looking at other resources for their PLA-production, such as Chinese silver grass, corn straw or tapioca. All of which are agriculturally less complex to produce.
We are all curious to see what the next steps for Danone will be. Stay tuned!