Plant-based plastic used in consumer cups

Stonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt company, introduced the first yogurt cup made from plants. Beginning in October, every Stonyfield Farm multipack yogurt cup, including YoBaby, YoToddler and YoKids (as well as B-Healthy, B-Well, Probiotic & O’Soy), will be made from plant-based plastic. The new cup slashes carbon emissions by nearly half (48 percent) and places Stonyfield on the front lines of the growing sustainable packaging industry, a field expected to reach $142 billion by 2015.

Stonyfield made the packaging change with no increase in price on any of its multipacks. The new cups look and feel just like the petroleum-based polystyrene cups they replace, the only difference is the new “Made From Plants” stamp on the bottom.

Stonyfield’s new plant-based cup is made from 93 percent polylactic acid, which at this time is made from corn. Within five years, the United States Department of Energy predicts that non-food plants will be viable alternatives. Until that time, Stonyfield uses an offset program to produce a sustainably grown amount of corn equal to the amount used for the cups. Thus, by taking an equivalent amount of genetically modified organism (GMO) corn out of production, Stonyfield is not supporting GMOs.

Like the polystyrene plastic packaging it is replacing, the new plant-based cup is not recyclable in most communities due to lack of recycling infrastructure. As demand increases, this will improve but, for now, Stonyfield’s new multipack cups should be placed with the non-recyclables. Currently there are only two facilities that can process the material from recycling centers. As more plant-based plastics begin to be used by manufacturers, recycling centers will have enough demand to add recycling systems for plant-based plastic, and the ability to process the material will expand.

Nancy Hirshberg, Stonyfield’s vice president of natural resources explained, “Even without a recycling option in the early stages, plant-based plastic is already better for the planet than polystyrene because it produces lower carbon emissions and requires less fossil fuel to make. As this new type of plastic becomes more commonplace, the potential environmental benefits only get better.”

To demonstrate its commitment to sustainability, Stonyfield is open-sourcing everything the company has learned about plant-based plastic so that other companies can give consumers what they really want – packaging that allows them to have their food and their planet, too.