Is it Compostable or Recyclable?
Potential for true recycling
Mimicking the patterns
We used to think that sustainable packaging had mostly to do with composting and recycling. We’ve learned that it’s more complicated than that. In fact, what happens to a cup after someone eats the yogurt is actually a very small part of the overall impact of the container. We can actually have a more positive impact on the environment by using less packaging material and more sustainable packaging materials.
While PLA itself can be composted, the particular blend used in our multipack cups is too thick to be considered compostable under American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) international standards. And, surprisingly, the independent review of PLA’s environmental impact found that composting is not the best option for disposing of the cups. Why? Because composting would release the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the plant-based plastic (CO2 absorbed by the corn when it was growing) back into the atmosphere where it would contribute to global warming.
So, how about recycling the cups?
The good news is that PLA is recyclable. The bad news is that, right now, the recycling infrastructure for PLA is in its infancy, so this technology is available in only two places, Wisconsin and Belgium, and these facilities aren’t equipped to separate paper labels, adhesives or lidding from our PLA multipack cups to enable recycling.
We’ll keep working at it, since PLA recycling has great potential. When typical packaging (made from paper or petroleum-based plastics) is recycled, it’s “down-cycled”—meaning that every time it is recycled it loses some of its intrinsic qualities and is made into an item of lesser quality. But PLA can be recycled back into lactic acid so there is no down-cycling. This means that used PLA cups can be converted back into lactic acid, and then reformed into PLA packaging material, creating a continuous closed-loop system.
So right now, you can’t compost or recycle our multipack cups, but just by purchasing our yogurt in the new material, you’re supporting efforts that reduce its overall environmental impact in ways that are far more impactful.