Tom’s of Maine is exploring ways to use waste potatoes — produced locally in Maine — as packaging for its products. The company is working with researchers at the University of Maine and the Sustainable BioPlastics Council of Maine to develop polylactic acid (PLA) packaging with potatoes that can not be sold for consumption.
Many other companies have incorporated PLA plant-based plastics into their packaging, but most tend to be made from corn. Brands like If You Care do sell bags made from potato starch-based plastics – manufactured in France and marketed in the US – but the use of potato-based plastics is not very typical in the US.
Back in March, Tom’s launched the Tom’s Goodness Report, which highlights packaging as a specific area it can improve upon to increase the overall sustainability of its operations. The company’s goals are to reduce waste sent to landfills by half, by 2015; as well as reduce water consumption by almost half, lower the use of “virgin” materials from 60 percent to 40 percent by 2020 and have its suppliers work on reducing energy usage by half, by 2020.
Worldwide PLA production capacity is expected to surge from 187,000 metric tons in 2011 to 295,000 in 2016, but other types of bioplastics are projected to see far greater increases. Most notably, production of bio-PET 30 is expected to skyrocket from 452,000 to 4.6 million metric tons. More information about the prospects for bioplastics, and the materials’ adoption by industry, can be found in EL PRO’s complimentary report, EL Insights: Green Plastics.