As the editor of Green Talk, I get the privilege every day of interviewing the most amazing companies and people who are making an environmental difference in our world. One such company, Biocor, stands out from the crowd with its concept of buying back post-consumer Polylactic acid (PLA) and converting it back to its original lactic acid feedstock for subsequent use in a variety of existing end markets. Think cradle to cradle.
The reason why I love this Company is they are providing a solution to help in the disposal of PLA products. You are probably seeing more and more PLA plates, cups, and water bottles in the grocery and natural health stores. Ever wonder why everyone is jumping on the PLA bandwagon?
Plastic. Over the years, the production of plastic has been touted as the evil empire. Making plastic products depletes our natural resources, continue to make us dependent on oil, and litters our environment since it does not decompose for hundred of years. Case in point, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a plastic soup island that exists in the Pacific Ocean, which is estimated to be twice the size of the continental United States. (See here for a depiction of its size.) To my knowledge, no one has offered to develop condominiums on this ” little island” yet with its waterfront view.
So, what is the problem? Sounds like PLA is a win-win for the environment. Not necessarily. PLA is only biodegradable in industrial settings. So, buying a PLA bottle such as a Re:newal’s bottle, only helps if you have somewhere to environmentally dispose of it such as a commercial composter. How many people have a commercial com-poster in their backyard, their town, or nearby? In addition, recyclers grumble about how PLA contaminates their recycling efforts since it looks just like plastic. PLA seems like a Cinderella, all dressed up, but no way to get to the ball.
This is where the beauty of a company like Bicor comes into play. They will be buying back, aggregating, and then reprocessing PLA to return it to its natural state so it can be re-used over and over again.
I had the privilege of interviewing Mike Centers, Executive Director and seasoned recycling veteran of the Company in the above podcast. As always, I urge you to listen to the podcast as he explains the mission of Biocor. In a recent press release, Centers stated:
“Greater sustainability in plastic packaging depends on decreasing the carbon footprint of the plastics used and on recapturing and re-using a greater percentage of post-consumer packaging,” said Centers. “Plastics made from renewable plant sources such as PLA, which is 100 percent bio-based, offer a means to achieve these goals. I’ve joined BioCor LLC with the intent of making a business out of buying the post-consumer PLA already out there in the market. I believe the economics of selling recycled PLA to a variety of lactic acid end markets are compelling. The BioCor business will conserve nonrenewable resources, lower carbon emissions, and reduce packaging waste.”
Sounds like a plan.
If you are in the recycling business, you are probably saying, there is not enough PLA to warrant that we collect it. Centers answers that problem with offering bags to recycling companies to send it to him instead of holding onto the PLA until they can create a bale. The Company will take all post industrial and post consumer products made of PLA such as water bottles, juice bottles, clamshells, cups, cutlery and several other products. See here to contact the Company about scrap pricing.
According to Centers, to date, over 20 million pounds of post industrial PLA was converted back to Lactic acid and made into more PLA resin. So, PLA is out there.
What I truly love about Biocor’ s concept is the ability to reduce the PLA back into it original state. As Centers explained, a whole city could have a finite amount of PLA being used over and over again. We would not have to continue creating new PLA. As I thought about that concept, I wondered if the energy to reduce PLA into its feedstock would be less than recycling and biodegrading PLA . The answer has to be yes.
I am not glamorizing PLA. I have my own issues with the product which I discussed in my Re:newal Water article. Biocor solves one of them which is environmentally respectfully disposal.
Lesson learned. Instead of complaining about a problem, see the opportunity to create a new business model to eradicate the issue. Biocor will be opening the door for more and more PLA use and less plastic use. Say good-by to the plastic water bottle. Good riddance!
Readers, what are you thought about Biocor and PLA?