Miniware Selects New Generation of Bioplastics for Eco-Friendly Babyware Line.
PLA, or poly lactic acid, is a bio-degradable plastic manufactured out of plant-based resources. People have been using PLA in the US for many years but production was mainly focused on the replacement of disposable, single-use products such as food packages and trash bags. Early generations of PLA were vulnerable to the heat. It softened at temperatures of 125F or higher. Advancements in PLA technology have led to big improvements in the strength, durability and earth-friendliness of bio-plastic products.
Multiple usage products are always better than disposable single-use, so the new generation of PLA offers many benefits when it comes to manufacturing baby products. The primary reasons for their decision to introduce PLA into the Miniware line are as follows:
PLA is not only reusable but most importantly it’s made from renewable materials. By replacing “fossil carbon” with “renewable carbon” we can help mitigate climate change by minimizing the environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle. Early PLA was created from industrial corn, but the new generation of PLA products can be made with a wide array of crops. We’ve selected cassava as the primary material for our Miniware line because of its lower environmental impact, quick growing time, and ability to grow in a wide range of conditions.
- No Toxins Required
A major drawback of petroleum plastic products is the need for toxic catalysts. These toxic additives, such as in the case of BPA, can have a lasting impact on our bodies, brains and overall health. This is of particular concern when constructing products for use by children whose biological systems are still developing.
PLA has fewer problems when it comes to use in food-safe products. A group of scientists published a report called the Safety assessment of polylactide (PLA) for use as a food-contact polymer in Food and Chemical Toxicology back in 1995. They tested PLA under a variety of typical food storage conditions and measured what leached out into food-simulating solvents, such as ethanol (what you find in liquor) and acetic acid (what you find in vinegar). The storage conditions were varied with a bunch of short and long term storage conditions. They even heated some samples to 140F to simulate food serving conditions.
The study found that PLA is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) when used in contact with food. Their summary concluded that PLA releases a small amount of lactic acid into foods. Lactic acid is a common food ingredient, one that is even found in breast milk. They estimated that the amount of lactic acid people would consume from PLA to be about 700 times less than the lactic acid intake of breastfed infants.
However, some production processes or chemical color dyes can add toxins into PLA. Ultimately, it’s up to the manufacturer to ensure that the products created are truly toxin-free and safe for food. With Miniware you can rest assured that all our products are natural and free of harmful chemicals as our products meet the standards of the FDA and LFGB.
- Decomposable and No End-of-Life Secondary Pollution
Bio-plastic earth-friendliness surpasses petroleum plastic as it’s not only created from renewable materials but is also biodegradable when exposed to direct sunlight and high humidity. While PLA can be recycled, there are no current programs in place here in the US or abroad. The sad truth is that the majority of plastic products cannot or will not be recycled. With China’s recent restrictions on accepting mixed recycling waste from the USA, many recycling programs have ground to a halt. In our effort to create products with minimum impact on the environment from creation through its end-of-life, it’s important not to solely rely on recycling measures, but to create products with a healthier afterlife overall.
Although PLA still will take up to about 12 months to decompose, it still is a significantly better solution than traditional plastic which can take 100 years or longer to full break down. Additionally, PLA does not leach heavy metals or harmful toxins into the environment when burning or naturally decomposing.
We believe that making reusable products with PLA will reduce significant amounts of ocean and land pollution, creating a long-term benefit for our environment and kids.
- Improved Durability with Plant-Based Materials
One downside of natural materials in modern life is the low durability of the product. Traditional plant-based products such as carved wood and bamboo products are either non-dishwasher friendly nor shatterproof with crush impact. While earlier generations of PLA suffered from heat susceptibility and lack of durability, the newest bio-plastics have made great improvement in these areas.
There are several different ways to strengthen PLA but the earlier methods mostly involved infusing products with petroleum plastic or rubber compounds to give them stronger, more elastic bodies.
Instead of infusing with harmful petroleum plastics, we prefer the latest improvements which involve changing the molding process in the PLA production. PLA has a very slow crystallization rate which means it softens up easily. A high level of crystallinity is desirable in finished products as it dictates most of the mechanical and thermal properties. In other words, by changing the mold material and heating system during the injection process, PLA stays in the mold more than 66 seconds and it increases the level of crystallinity in the final products.
This strengthened PLA is even more suitable for modern family life than our current bamboo fiber line as it is dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe and much less brittle compared to most of plant-based materials.
- Efficient Production Methods Reduce Cost
PLA is one of the very few plant-based materials that can be produced on a large scale. The injecting time is longer than petroleum plastic but is faster than other plant-based products. It doesn’t require labor-intensive work like wood carving nor does it require incredibly long machine time like bamboo fiber heat press molding.
In addition to saving both human and machine labor, the production process reduces the defect rate compared to bamboo fiber molding which means less waste in the frontal production. We are able to provide a more affordable option to our clients who are the pioneers and leaders in promoting a better and cleaner solution to the health and baby industry.
It’s an ever-changing world when it comes to clean technology for modern life. Miniware believes in both natural and smart solutions for our next generations. We strive to adopt the best solutions available and that's the exact reason we think now is the best time to bring strengthened PLA into our family and yours.