Using Corn-Plastic as an Eco-Friendly Packaging Material

Good Essays
Topics: Starch
Using Corn-Plastic as an Eco-Friendly Packaging Material
Introduction:
For the purpose of this project, I chose to use sheets of corn-plastic as a wrapper for Big Kahuna Burger. The wrapper would be by inches and less than a millimeter thick. The reason I chose sheets over boxes was because sheets can be stacked by the thousands making shipping more efficient and producing less material in land fills. The material of this wrapper is corn-plastic, or by it’s scientific name, polylactic acid. Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as cornstarch, tapioca roots, chips or starch, or sugarcane. This is an environmentally practical material for an assortment of reasons; It is biodegradable, non-harmful to people or the environment and it comes from natural, renewable resources. “The United States uses 20.8 million barrels of oil per day, 10 percent of which goes solely to the production of conventional plastic such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) [sources: CIA World Factbook, Jewell]. Bioplastics like corn plastic, however, don 't require oil and, as a bonus, their manufacture releases fewer toxins and greenhouse gases.” (Howstuffworks.com)

Pre-Production:
• Harvesting of corn requires fossil fuels to run tractors and other machines
• Fossil fuels required to ship to factories.

Production:
“First, the harvested corn crop is soaked and ground so that the endosperm can be separated from the gluten and fiber. This step is typical in grain crop harvesting, too. Next, producers add enzymes to the starchy endosperm, which converts the endosperm into a simple sugar called dextrose. Then, the addition of bacterial cultures causes the sugar to ferment into lactic acid in the same way brewers use fermentation to produce beer. The resulting acid consists of lactide molecules, which bond into long chains called polymers. At the end of this process, bioplastics



References: • “What is corn plastic?” How Stuff Works. July 2011. http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/corn-plastic3.htm • “Polylactic Acid” Wikipedia. 2013. “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polylactic_acid” • "Bioplastics Frequently Asked Questions." European Bioplastics. June 2008. http://www.european-bioplastics.org/index.php?id=191 • Learn, Scott. "Corn plastic sounds great, but it 's tough to recycle and may foul systems." The Oregonian. Oct. 27, 2008. http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/10/pla_corn_plastic_problems.html

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