The Move to Bioplastics

Howie Goldfinger, CEO Ecorite

At Ecorite, we’re always looking for new ways to expand our line of sustainable products.  That said, we also recognize that some of our promotional items are made from polymers derived from the oil industry.  While the product may be used multiple times, thereby eliminating single-use equivalents, both are derived from the same source, which has a huge environmental impact.

There are companies in operation today that are investing in a relatively new field called ‘bioplastics’ and attracting billions in the process, according to an article by Associated Press writer Mark Gillispie, that appeared in the Toronto Star last month (Companies bet big on bioplastics, Toronto Star, Wednesday, August 10, 2022).

One company in Georgia is combining micro-organisms with canola oil in a fermentation process to produce a polyester product called PHA that is rapidly biodegradable after use.  Straws and plastic drink stirrers are being tested by Starbucks at the present time.  PHA’s are a family of plastics known by their full name of polyhydroxyalkanoates (easier to type than to say) that have been around since the 1980’s but are only now gaining attention for their biodegradable nature.  Perhaps with enough production in scale, the costs for such products will create more commercial viability.

Another bioplastic, Polylactic acid or PLA, is also coming into vogue today with commercial production plants being built in Thailand and continental USA, and elsewhere.   This product is most often produced into useful items such as disposable tableware, and medical implants and devices.  These products are also biodegradable but typically need a solvent to assist in their decomposition.   PHA can dissolve in sea water inside of six months.  Without a solvent, PLA can take years to decompose.

To the extent that Ecorite can source and ultimately apply some of these technologies in new products is intriguing, and we will continue to investigate sustainable and eco-friendly options.


*Photo credit: Michael Obeysekera