LCA of PLA bottle solutions for extended shelf‑life (ESL) milk

LCA of PLA bottle solutions for extended shelf‑life (ESL) milk

The dairy market is one of the most important sectors worldwide, and milk packaging contributes to over one-third of the global dairy packaging demand. The end of life of the PLA bottles is a critical stage of their life cycle, as demonstrated by the fact that disposable bottles are one of the litter items that are most found on beach shores. The aim of this paper is to analyse the performance of PLA bottles compared to other alternatives currently in use in the milk packaging sector, using the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. PLA bottles can be a powerful means to create a circular economy for disposable items. A PLA-based bottle is compared to a PET bottle, a HDPE bottle, a multilayer carton, and a glass bottle. In the analysis, also secondary and tertiary packaging is included. The functional unit chosen is “the packaging needed to contain 1 L of ESL milk and to guarantee a shelf life of 30 days”. Two sensitivity analyses are also performed in order to assess the infuence of the end-of-life stage on the total impact. The results show that, in accordance with the assumptions of an ideal scenario, bioplastic system has a better performance than fossil-based systems and multilayer carton in the categories of climate change, ozone depletion, human toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, particular matter, and land use. The recycling scenario strongly changes the impact of the glass packaging system in the considered categories.

PLA compostable milk bottle
breaking free from plastic (compostable bottles)

Methodology and data

The present analysis of LCA of PLA bottle solutions for extended shelf‑life (ESL) milk is made following the life cycle assessment methodology. The software SimaPro 9 (PRé Consultants 2019) was used to perform the calculation. As prescribed by the ISO 14040 series (International Organization for Standardization 2006a; 2006b), the following phases are presented:
• Goal and scope defnition
• Life cycle inventory
• Life cycle assessment
• Life cycle interpretation

LCA of PLA bottle - Goal and scope definition

The aim of this analysis is to perform a life cycle assessment of diferent packaging systems used for extended shelf-life (ESL) milk. All the items are modelled through the main materials they are made of. In detail, the following packaging systems are considered.

The PET bottle system. The bottle is made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the cap is made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and the label is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
• The HDPE bottle system. The bottle is made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the cap is made of polypropylene (PP), and the label is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
• The multilayer carton system. Beyond the multilayer aseptic carton, a cap made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is included in this system. No label is included.
• The glass bottle system. The bottle is made of glass, the cap is made of steel, and the label is made of Low-density polyethylene (LDPE).
• The bio-plastic bottle system. The bottle is made of PLA, and the label and the cap are mainly made of polylactic acid (PLA) and poly butylene succinate (PBS). The items made of PLA and PBS are compostable. Biodegradability under composting conditions is determined by applying the standard EN 13,432 (CEN 2000). In all the systems, secondary and tertiary packaging is also included.

compostable milk bottles - preform

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PLA sorting for recycling

PLA sorting for recycling. Experiments performed at the National Test Centre Circular Plastics (NTCP)

Bioplastic, if produced sustainably, can contribute to the transition to a circular economy, especially when these plastics are recycled as much as possible. BioPE and BioPET are automatically sorted and recycled together with fossil PE and PET in the current recycling system for plastic packaging. After bioPE and bioPET, PLA (polylactic acid) is the third bioplastic on the market in volume. PLA is a bioplastic that can be used for the production of a variety of packaging, for example meat trays and packaging for vegetables and fruit. In the current recycling system for consumer packaging waste in the Netherlands and other countries, PLA is not sorted out and recycled automatically.
It was concluded in a previous study by CE Delft, (2019) that, in theory, sorting out of PLA packaging waste in plastic sorting installations and mechanical or chemical recycling of the sorted out PLA can be interesting, both from an economic and an environmental perspective. CE Delft estimated that the climate impact of mechanical or chemical recycling of PLA is lower than of conventional processing routes like composting or combustion (CE Delft, 2019). The share of PLA in the mix of packaging has to increase to 1 to 5% to make the sorting of PLA economically feasible for industrial sorting installations (CE Delft, 2019).

Recycling different PLA products

The main research question

However, these conclusions are somewhat uncertain because the effectivity of sorting out PLA with a Near Infrared (NIR)-installation is not yet tested in Dutch sorting installations with Dutch packaging waste. To tackle these uncertainties, a PLA sorting experiment is performed in the National Test Centre for Circular Plastics (NTCP) in Heerenveen.
This installation is built as a model for Dutch sorting installations. The experiment focused on 3D PLA materials, so no PLA foils are investigated.
The main research question for the experiment is: How well can 3D PLA be sorted out of Dutch PMD waste with a higher share of PLA and how does this affect other sorted out plastic streams (especially PET)? Based on stakeholder interviews and literature research we also looked at the possibilities for actual recycling of the sorted PLA.

Main results experiment

Several results are interesting: the PLA yield (share of PLA, which is sorted out correctly), the purity of the PLA stream (share of PLA in the PLA stream) and the pollution of PLA in the PET stream (share of PLA in the PET stream). The results for these parameters are summarised in Table 1.

The PLA yield depends on the type of packaging. The yield is lower for lids and higher for cups and trays. A large share of lids and the trays (10-19%) end up in the lights stream since it is blown out by the wind shifter. Furthermore, a large share of the lids and cups (19-28%) are not sorted out and end up in the residual stream. The colour of the packaging appears to make no difference in this experiment.

PLA can be recycled

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Plant-based bottles (PLA) vs. PET Bottles – Cradle-to-gate LCA and Implications

plant-based bottles product flow

introduction: plant-based bottles vs. PET Bottles

The global production of plastics exceeded 300 million tons in 2013 [1]. A significant share of these plastics turns to solid waste and cause disposal problems since they are mostly non-degradable in the natural environment [1,2]. The disposal problem, jointly with other environmental concerns associated with petroleum-based plastics, has raised the demand for bio-based polymers [3]. Polylactide (PLA), with an annual production of over 180,000 tons [4], is one of the big drivers of the advances of bio-based polymers (BPs) on the market. PLA is biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch, cassava, or sugarcane [5-9], and can be used to alleviate the waste disposal problem [10]. It is also one of the most versatile materials and – in contrast to most other available BPs – is also suitable for more sophisticated applications like beverage and food packaging [5]. It has been showing that PLA can successfully replace polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in the production of clamshell containers, trays, and bottles [5,11,12]. PLA is often considered to be more environmentally friendly compared to its petroleum-based counterparts due to its biodegradability and renewability of raw materials used for its production. Nevertheless, the production of PLA also requires non-renewable energy sources. Fossil fuel is used to power farm machinery, produce fertilizers and pesticides, transport crops and crop products to processing plants, process raw materials, and ultimately produce the PLA granules. Therefore, to comprehensively evaluate the environmental profile of bio-based products it is paramount to carry out a life-cycle-based study, as being bio-based is not sufficient to be considered environmentally friendly [7]. The link below will guide you to the full rapport of comparing plant-based bottles vs PET bottles. 

Plant-based bottles vs. PET Bottles

The study compares the environmental impacts of 500 ml water bottles produced from corn-based polylactide – Poly lactic acid (plant-based bottles) and PET. The results of cradle-to-bottle factory gate assessment revealed that the usage of PLA granules instead of PET granules would reduce the net global warming potential and cumulative non-renewable energy demand of bottles by 30.9% and 32%, respectively. However, if no credits are given for atmospheric CO2 fixed by corn, and the energy in corn-feedstock is accounted for, the advantages of PLA would be largely diminished.

PLA non renewable MJ
new land use PLA

Extra information - regarding our own PLANT-BASED BOTTLES

PLA bottles: Carbohydrate yield per hectare PLA feedstock

Our plant-based bottles are not made from Corn. The feedstock that we use for our PLA is sugar cane or sugar beet. 

PLA made from sugar cane/beet has a much higher carbohydrate yield per ton/Ha than any other crop used for the production of PLA. So there is less material needed for the same amount of end product.

Besides this benefit all of our PLA is NON-GMO. We make sure our plant-based bottles are as close to mother nature as possible. 

Let's change the world.Use plant-based plastic

ASTM standard

ASTM standards - benefits of PLA
bio-plastic bottles

ASTM standard D6400

This specification ASTM standard covers plastics and products made from plastics that are designed to be composted in municipal and industrial aerobic composting facilities. The properties in this specification are those necessary to determine whether plastics and products made from plastics will compost satisfactorily, including biodegradation at a rate comparable to known compostable materials. The purpose of this specification is to establish standards for identifying products and materials that will compost satisfactorily in commercial and municipal composting facilities.

1. Scope of application

1.1 This specification covers plastics and products made from plastics that are designed to be composted under aerobic conditions in municipal and industrial aerobic composting plants, where thermophilic conditions are achieved.

1.2 This specification is intended to establish requirements for labeling materials and products, including plastic packaging, as “compostable in aerobic municipal and industrial composting plants”.

1.3 The properties in this specification are those necessary to determine whether finished products (including packaging), using plastics and polymers as coatings or binders, will compost satisfactorily, in large scale aerobic municipal or industrial composting facilities. Maximum throughput is a high priority for composters and the intermediate stages of plastic disintegration and biodegradation are not visible to the end user for aesthetic reasons.

1.4 The following safety hazard caveat relates to the Test Methods section of this standard: This standard is not intended to address all potential safety concerns associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health and environmental practices and determine the applicability of legal restrictions prior to use.

NOTE 1: This test method is equivalent to ISO 17088.

1.5 This International ASTM Standard has been developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles of standardization laid down in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations of the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade of the World Trade Organization (TBT).

ASTM Standard D5338

ASTM Standard test method for determining aerobic biodegradation of plastic materials under controlled composting conditions, with thermophilic temperatures

Meaning and usage

Biodegradation of plastic in a composting unit is an important phenomenon because it can affect the degradation of other materials entrapped by the plastic and the resulting quality and appearance of the composted material. Biodegradation of plastics will also allow for the safe disposal of these plastics through large, professionally managed composting facilities and well-managed residential units, where thermophilic temperatures are reached. This procedure has been developed to determine the rate and extent of aerobic biodegradability of plastic products when placed in a controlled composting process.

Limitations— Because there is great variation in the construction and operation of composting plants and because the legal requirements for composting systems vary, this procedure is not intended to simulate the environment of a particular composting system. However, it is expected to resemble the environment of a composting process carried out under optimal conditions where thermophilic temperatures are reached. More particularly, the procedure is intended to create a standard laboratory environment that allows a rapid and reproducible determination of aerobic biodegradability under controlled composting conditions.

Scope of application
1- This ASTM standard test method determines the extent and rate of aerobic biodegradation of plastic materials when exposed to a controlled composting environment under laboratory conditions at thermophilic temperatures. This test method is designed to provide reproducible and repeatable test results under controlled conditions similar to composting conditions, where thermophilic temperatures are reached. The test chemicals are exposed to an inoculum derived from municipal solid waste compost. Aerobic composting takes place in an environment where temperature, aeration and humidity are closely monitored and controlled.
NOTE 1: During composting, thermophilic temperatures are most easily achieved in large-scale, professionally managed facilities. However, these temperatures can also be achieved in smaller residential composting units, often referred to as “backyard” or “home” composting.

2- This test method is designed to produce a percentage of the conversion of carbon in the sample to carbon dioxide. The rate of biodegradation is also monitored.

3- This test method is designed to be applicable to all plastic materials intended to be composted in plants reaching thermophilic temperatures.

4- The values stated in SI units are to be considered as standard.

5- This standard is not intended to address all possible safety concerns associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of legal restrictions before use. Specific hazard statements are included in section 8.

6- This standard is not intended to address all possible safety concerns associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate health and safety practices and determine the applicability of regulatory restrictions before use.

7- This test method is equivalent to ISO 14855.

8-This International Standard has been developed by internationally recognized principles of standardization laid down in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides, and Recommendations of the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade of the World Trade Organization (TBT).

composting machine, compostable bottles
plant-made Juice bottle compostable
compostable bottle

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Water and land footprint of bioplastics

Petroleum-based plastics production has increased from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014 and it is estimated double in the next 20 years. Plastics derived from fossil resources are causing different concerns, such as the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), resource depletion, and rise of oil prices. These concerns with petroleum-based plastics are generating interest in bioplastics. Many studies have focused on GHGs of bioplastics but studies focusing on water and land footprints of bioplastics are rare.
This study aims to calculate the water and land footprint of bioplastics in several scenarios where all plastics are bio-based and assume different types of biomaterials and recycling rates. Calculation of such scenarios are carried out through a number of steps. The step to calculate the water and land footprint are: (i) listing the inventory of different biomaterial, (ii) estimating the efficiency of biomaterials, (iii) estimating the water and land footprint of sources materials, (iv) calculating the water and land footprint of final products, and (v) calculating the total water and land footprint if all fossil feedstock plastics were replaced by bioplastics. The types of bioplastics studied in this research are polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polylactic acid (PLA), polyurethane (PUR), polypropylene (PP), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These plastics are selected because they are the main types of plastic materials used globally. Over 70% of the total demand of plastics is satisfied through these five types of plastics. Moreover, polylactic acid (PLA) is also studied because it is the most promising bioplastic and it can replace many functionalities of fossil-based plastics.

In this study, nine sets of assumptions are used. Three sets of assumption relate to the types of
biomaterials used and three sets of assumption relate to different recycling rate. The types of
biomaterials used is selected based on the result of water and land footprint calculation. Biomaterial with the highest water and land footprint value represents the ‘high’ value assumption, the lowest value represents the ‘low’ value assumption, and an average value represents ‘average’ value assumption. However, only PE, PET, and PLA have more than one type of biomaterial. For the recycling rate, there are three scenarios as well which are 10%, 36%, and 62%. The selected rates correspond to the recycling rates for today, the target recycling rate of EU in 2020, and a rate of all plastics that are possible to recycle.

This study shows that the water footprint of bioplastics vary between 1.4 m 3 /kg to 9.5 m 3 /kg. The land footprint of bioplastics vary between 0.7 m 2 /kg to 13.75 m 2 /kg. The water footprint if all the fossilbased plastics replace with bio-based plastics varies from 307 billion to 1,652 billion m 3 per year. If this number compare to global annual average water footprint (9,087 billion m 3 /year), it accounted about 3% to 18% of the global annual average water footprint. The land footprint of a complete shift varies from 30 million to 219 million hectares per year. If it compares to free arable land in 2020 which account about 360 million hectares, the land footprint of this replacement will take about 8% to 61%.

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The fate of (compostable) plastic products

bottles and preforms PLA
PLA bottles compostable water bottles

The fate of compostable plastic products in a full scale industrial organic waste treatment facility

This research project has been carried out by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research commissioned and funded
by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK), in the context of ‘Praktijkonderzoek
industriële compostering’ (project number BO-43-012.02-066).

For several years now, there has been debate between the (organic) waste treatment companies,
organised in the Vereniging Afvalbedrijven (VA) and the companies producing compostable plastics,
organised in Holland Bioplastics (HB) about the acceptance of compostable (packaging) products in
source separated municipal organic waste (GFT). In this debate it is brought forward that it is still
unclear whether the disintegration rate of compostable products (i.e. certified according to the current
standard EN 13432) would be sufficient to be compatible with the current GFT treatment practice in
the Netherlands. This is questioned because the current waste treatment practice has focussed more
and more on high throughput of GFT and corresponding short composting cycles (low residence
times)

VA and HB joined forces in defining the research question that could provide clarity to this matter and
helped with project set-up. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, commissioned by the Dutch
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK), independently carried out the research in the
period February-October 2019.
The core of this research is an industrial organic waste treatment trial in which the fate of compostable
packaging products is studied in a full scale organic waste treatment facility. The focus is on products
that fulfil the requirements for compostable packaging (according to standard EN13432) ánd have a
potential co-benefit for the waste collection and treatment. A set of 9 different compostable plastic
products from various producers was selected, consisting of GFT collection bags, plant pots, tea bags,
coffee pads, coffee capsules, and fruit labels. In addition, the present contamination of GFT and
compost by conventional plastics is studied in detail.

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LCA study of PLA including Food Waste

bio-plastic bottles

LCA study of PLA including Food Waste.

(rapport: LCA study of PLA Packaging including Food Waste.
Ana Carolina Cruz Alarico – Chemical Engineering Department, Instituto Superior Tecnico, Lisbon, Portugal) 

The pressing need, in recent decades, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and the amount of food waste destined for landfills, has led to the wide development of bio-based plastics produced from renewable sources. However, the most important bio-plastic on the market, used to manufacture food packaging, is the poly(lactic acid) (PLA) produced by Total-Corbion. The analysis presented in this dissertation, is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study of packaging heavily contaminated with wet food residues, to determine the impact of packaging and food waste. 

The aim of this work is twofold: first, to analyse what might be the best end-of-life (EOL) option for PLA food packaging with food content and second, to determine which life cycle stage has the biggest impact. Therefore, by using the LCA methodology, a LCA cradle-to-grave was conducted for all the different food packaging systems, taking into consideration as final scenarios composting, incineration, anaerobic digestion and landfill. The present assessment shows that, incineration is more favorable for food packaging with low moisture content (<70%), such as: coffee cups, yogurt cups, coffee capsules. Industrial composting is more favorable for food packaging with high moisture content, such as tea bag and cucumber. Anaerobic digestion is the best option for all systems but it is unfortunately technically challenging. Lastly, landfill, is the worse option, from a LCA perspective, because even though PLA will remain inert in landfills, food waste decomposes into harmful air emissions.

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Goal and Scope LCA study of PLA including Food Waste

The goal of this LCA is to quantify the environmental footprint of different PLA food packaging products including the food waste through a cradle-to-grave LCA, focusing on the end-of-life options. It includes different disposal alternatives, such as incineration with energy recovery, industrial composting, anaerobic digestion and landfill. The reference flow, called functional unit, is considered as 1 kg of PLA packaging including food waste from households, as the comparison unit in order to promote equivalence between the systems. The SimaPro software was used as a tool to facilitate the LCA implementation. The database used for background processes was Ecoinvent v3.3. The PLA inventory data were developed and collected by Total-Corbion from the core data for sugar cane milling, lactic acid and polymer production from their factory in Thailand.

System Description
This study assesses the life cycle of food packaging using single-serve products, from the extraction and processing of all raw materials to the end-of-life of the food matter and its packaging system. The five different systems were chosen on account of the fact that this project seeks to address a wide range of products with different moisture and organic contents. In the case of the coffee cup, it was modelled to represent the dry biodegradable packaging without food contamination.
The system boundaries identify the life cycle stages, processes, and flows considered in the LCA and should include all activities relevant to attaining the above-mentioned study objectives. All the systems covered the full packaging life cycle, including primary material production, transformation into polymer resin, packaging manufacturing as well as end-of-life treatment. The waste management alternatives assessed in the systems are anaerobic digestion, composting, incineration and landfill.

bio-plastic bottles transparent
Composting machine for bio-plastic,, digester
composting machine, compostable bottles

Conclusions LCA study of PLA including Food Waste.


For all three systems, the ranking observed never matches the ranking suggested by an interpretation of the EU waste hierarchy. This is mostly because composting impacts are higher than energy recovery by incineration. Unquestionably, landfilling is the worst waste management option for bio-waste. However, for the management of biodegradable waste diverted from landfills, there seems to be several environmentally favourable options. Incineration with energy recovery appears to be the best solution for coffee cups, yogurts cups and coffee capsules. For tea bags and cucumbers, incineration is not suitable due to the high amount of moisture content, and because of that composting is the best solution.
Taking the entire production chain into account, the LCA results show that the most significant impacts are related to the use phase, especially if a heating device is used, such as a kettle, coffee machine or refrigerator. Finally the influence of packaging disposal is very small in comparison with the rest of the life cycles.
Recovering the energy from bio-based packages is far more favourable than burning synthetic plastics because the carbon content of bio-based plastics does not stem from fossil sources. The bioplastics production for the replacement of a part of fossil-based plastics seems to be a real and effective strategy towards sustainable development. In fact, the displacing of conventional plastics with bioplastics can lead to considerable energy and GHGs emissions savings.
The AD of organic waste is clearly on the rise within the EU because its main advantages lies in converting organic waste into biogas, a renewable energy source. The next decade is likely to witness a considerable rise in research regarding anaerobic digestion of PLA.
Sensitivity analysis, show that some assumptions for several key input parameters are very important due to the uncertainty of all the input parameters.

PLA Bottle HPP treatment

PLA bottles HPP treatment
PLA Bottles HPP treatment

PLA bottle HPP treatment

Research rapport: Suitability Assessment of PLA Bottles for High-Pressure Processing of Apple Juice.

The aim of the present PET – PLA bottle HPP treatment study is to assess the use of polylactic acid (PLA) bottles as an alternative to PET ones for high-pressure processing (HPP) of apple juice. The treatment of PLA bottles at 600 MPa for 3 min did not cause alterations in the packaging shape and content, confirming the suitability of PLA bottles to withstand HPP conditions as well as PET bottles. Quantification of mesophilic bacterial and fungal load suggested HPP treatment can be effectively applied as an alternative to pasteurization for apple juice, and other juices, packed in PLA bottles since it guarantees microbial stability during at least 28 days of refrigerated storage. 

The headspace gas level did not change significantly during the 28 days of refrigerated storage, irrespective of the bottle material. Color parameters (L*, a*, and b*) of the HPP-treated juice were similar to those of the fresh juice. Irrespective of the packaging type, the total color variation significantly changed during storage, showing an exponential increase in the first 14 days, followed by a steady state until the end of observations. Overall, PLA bottles proved to offer comparable performances to PET both in terms of mechanical resistance and quality maintenance.

PLA bottles HPP treatment, the result:
Today, consumer choices are driven both by quality-related factors and by environmental sustainability aspects, which are especially related to the packaging system. The reduction of environmental impacts arising from the packaging is an effective strategy for the overall sustainability improvement, especially for products characterized by a high packaging relative environmental impact, such as juices and beverages. In this context, premium fruit juices processed with non-thermal technologies are available, but the possibility to couple a green processing technology with a green packaging system has not been exploited yet. The present study assessed the feasibility of employing PLA bottles as an alternative to PET ones, for the packaging and subsequent HPP treatment of apple juice. 

In a perspective of improving food chain sustainability, PLA and other bioplastics may replace conventional plastics for some specific uses, such as fresh and minimally processed products, offering sufficient performances able to maintain the shelf life standards. This study proved that PLA is a valid sustainable alternative to conventional PET bottles for the packaging and HPP treatment of apple juice due to its: 1-Biobased nature, 2- compostability/recyclability, 3- mechanical resistance and ability to restore the initial shape after HPP treatment, 4- protection offered to the product, which is comparable with PET for short-term storage. The rapport also proved the effectiveness of HPP for the stabilization of juices and demonstrated the potential of non-destructive gas measurement systems for the verification of diffusional properties of bottles.

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PLA and the circular economy

Compost machine for bio-plastic
biodegradable water bottles getting incinerated
recycling PLA

PLA and the circular economy

PLA and the circular economy, so-called “waste streams” and products at the end of their useful life form the basis for new ones products, instead of being thrown away. This lake comprehensive, sustainable approach replaces the linear one economy with a circular, biobased economy in which products are made from sustainable, natural resources and are reused and recycled as much as possible. At the end of their lives, these products then have a range of possibilities transform them back into raw material for new, added value product life cycles.

Multiple end-of-life options:

  1. Recycle and reuse
  2. Compost/biodegrade
  3. Incineration/renewable energy recovery
  4. Anaerobic digestion
  5. Feedstock recovery

Low cabon/ CO2 footprint
PLA bioplastics offer a significantly reduced carbon footprint versus traditional oil-based plastics. This is important for the health of our planet and is a growing concern among consumers, who are increasingly critical of the sustainability aspects of their purchases. As media attention grows and regulatory activity accelerates, biocontent in plastic will become an increasingly relevant issue for producers to address.

We distribute our biodegradable water bottles only within “closed-loop” venues, whereby used containers are collected on-site and undergo proper end-of-life processing. Our goal is to get 90% of the PLA bottles back after use, 90% of the time. Collecting the PLA bottles and send them to the right end of life option.

The Bottle model digester
The onside composting machine is a patented commercial biodigester that decomposes our compostable plastic water bottles and all food waste within 24 – 48 hours.
The onside composting machine reduces the mess, cost, and inconvenience of disposing of waste food. Instead of sending waste food to the landfill where it decomposes into methane, you can cleanly and safely break down our PLA biodegradable water bottles on site.

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Exploration of sorting and recycling PLA.

bio-plastic bottles resin
bio-plastic bottles end of life solutions
biodegradable water bottles recycling

CE Delft rapport ” Verkenning uitsorteren en recyclen van bioplastic PLA – September 2019″ 


– Recycling PLA.
Bioplastics fit well in a circular economy, especially if they are recycled as much as possible at the end of their lifespan (CE Delft, 2017a). Some bioplastics, such as bio-PET and bio-PE, are already partially recycled. They are also sorted out from the plastic consumer waste for recycling. The bioplastic PLA (polylactic acid), which is the third bioplastic used by volume as packaging material, is not yet sorted out for recycling. This study explored whether this is possible and what the costs, benefits and environmental benefits would be. The exploration focuses on the bioplastic PLA in the plastic packaging waste of consumers in the Netherlands, now and in 2030.

The focus on PLA in this analysis does not mean that PLA is better or more sustainable than bio-PE or bio-PET or other bio-plastics. This focus has been chosen purely because PLA is the largest bioplastic on the packaging market that is not yet sorted out for recycling. This study did not compare different bioplastics, but looked at an increase in PLA and other bioplastics according to the current market distribution.

– PLA volume in the market now and in 2030.
We estimate that the share of PLA in plastic packaging waste from households is currently 0.1 to 0.4% based on statements from manufacturers and measurement of waste.
PLA producer Total Corbion estimates that PLA could take a market share of 10 to 20% by 2030 from packaging that is not a bottle or a flask. In the total consumer packaging market this would be 7 to 15%. The transition agenda for plastics, drawn up as part of the government-wide program for the circular economy, aims at 15% virgin bioplastics by 2030. Translated with the share of PLA now in the packaging market and taking into account uncertainties, this provides a picture of the future of 1 to 8, 5% PLA in the packaging market by 2030.

Sorting PLA with NIR installations.
PLA can be sorted out with a NIR installation (Near InfraRed). Packaging is recognized optically on a belt and blown out of the waste stream after recognition. A test with German waste shows a sorting efficiency of 55%, but here use was made of packaging that is difficult to sort and sub-optimal system settings. NIR supplier TOMRA mentions a sorting efficiency for 3D PLA of 80-85%. These figures could be tested with Dutch waste by means of a sorting test with a source separator, an after-separator and a technology supplier.

Mechanical or chemical recycling of PLA and climate benefit.
The sorted PLA can be recycled both mechanically and chemically. Mechanical recycling of PLA is already applied to specific industrial waste streams that are quite clean. Chemical recycling is already being applied to production waste by Total Corbion in Thailand. Both routes lead to a reduction in the global climate impact
3 2.R82 – Exploration of sorting and recycling of bioplastic PLA – September 2019
of approx. 1.1 kg CO2-eq. per kg of PLA discarded, compared to incineration in waste power plants.

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bio-plastic bottles resin production
PLA bottles: CO2 output PLA compared to other plastics
CO2 reduction PLA bottles

Costs and benefits
In an analysis of the profitability of PLA sorting, the investment costs of a PLA sorting system and operational costs of PLA sorting have been estimated in dialogue with a number of current sorters. In addition, in dialogue with PLA producers, it was estimated how much sorted PLA material could yield if it is (chemically) converted back into new PLA. A distinction has been made between 3D PLA (containers) and 2D PLA (foil). Based on an average separation installation with a processing capacity of 50 ktonnes of plastic packaging waste, the net present value, payback time and the unprofitable top have been calculated for various percentages of PLA in the plastic packaging waste. This yielded the following results:


– With the current share of 0.1-0.4% PLA in the packaging mix, sorting out PLA is not economically profitable.
– Sorting out 3D PLA (trays and dishes) is economically more profitable than sorting out 2D PLA (foils).
– If the growth of PLA packaging were to concentrate on 3D-PLA, then, depending on the market price of lactic acid in particular, sorting would become profitable at 1 to 5% PLA in the packaging mix. The extra costs for sorting can then be paid from the proceeds from selling sorted PLA.
– With an optimistic share of 10% PLA in the packaging market, PLA recycling is economically attractive for sorters and recyclers because of the relatively high yields. The CO2-eq. Reduction of recycling of PLA is then approximately 16 kton / year compared to incineration in waste-to-energy plants (AECs).
This analysis must be explicitly seen as a first exploration, based on an average sorting situation. The situation may deviate positively or negatively at different sorters.


Policy conclusions
In order to achieve 15% bioplastics by 2030, it is probably also (temporarily) necessary to stimulate bioplastics. In addition, it is worth considering, for example, at 2% PLA in the packaging market, also stimulating the sorting and recycling of PLA. In the packaging market, the existing Packaging Waste Fund offers good opportunities for this, because it manages an administration of all packaging on the Dutch market and also collects the producer responsibility contributions. For example, it is conceivable that the government will (temporarily) finance a lower rate for bioplastics. In addition, the rate for bioplastics that can be recycled would differ from those for which this does not apply. This is in line with the policy of the waste fund that applies a lower rate for easily recyclable packaging from 2019. In this way, the government could stimulate bioplastics in the packaging market with little implementation costs.
With regard to stimulating sorting of bioplastics at sorters, a (temporary) subsidy scheme for sorting companies for the purchase of additional sorting installations is obvious. A subsidy via the Waste Fund for this is also possible, but more indirectly. Then it would be a (temporary) premium on the sorting rate when PLA is sorted. On the other hand, there is a plea for an arrangement via the Waste Fund that some of the sorters are abroad and that subsidizing companies abroad raises questions.