What is Plant-based Plastic?
Most plastic, like the polystyrene we previously used in our multipacks, is made from oil or natural gas. PLA (Polylactic Acid), which makes up 93% of our multipack cups, is a plastic made from plants instead.
PLA can be made from a variety of sugar sources, including beets, sugar cane, and tapioca. In the US, the only maker of PLA currently uses corn as the sugar source. Technology now in development will soon allow PLA to be made from agricultural by-products such as the residue from corn stalks, or from perennial plants (like switchgrass) that can grow on marginal land instead of on prime agricultural land.
The Ingeo™ PLA used in our multipacks begins as corn, which is turned into corn starch and fermented in a process similar to making yogurt. The result is lactic acid, which is then converted through a series of processes into a flexible material that looks and feels just like plastics made from fossil fuels. In fact, it is plastic—it's just made from corn instead of petroleum!
Ingeo™ PLA is made by NatureWorks in Nebraska (owned by Cargill), then sent to Clear Lam Packaging in Illinois, where it is mixed with colorings and other additives and turned into rolls of plastic that we form into cups at the Stonyfield Yogurt Works.
Except for the "THIS CUP IS MADE FROM PLANTS" stamp on the bottom, you probably won't notice any difference in the new cups. They look, sound, and feel just like the plastic you're used to.
PLA has a much lower carbon footprint than polystyrene, which makes it better for the planet. We're pleased that we can take this big step without increasing the price of our yogurts.