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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_0904

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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_0904

Bottle Applications PLA

Bottle Applications PLA Bottles - Recyclable and Compostable Among the increasing number of companies offering their products in PLA bottles is the privately held Primo Water Corporation, headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. bioplastics MAGAZINE spoke with Tim Ronan, VP Marketing & PR of the ‘UPonGREEN‘ certified company which was incorporated in 2004. bM: What did you do before introducing PLA bottles? TR: Our mission is to help people live better lives by offering the world‘s best tasting water in environmentally friendly ways. In 2005 we started with three and five gallon polycarbonate water cooler bottles with a unique ‘Zero Waste‘ bottle recovery system where the bottles never end up in a landfill (bringback - reuse 40-50 times - recycle). Since 2008 we have been offering Energy Star rated stylish, contemporary water coolers/dispensers. We developed that unique system and are now the largest branded water cooler bottle company in the USA. bM: When and why did you start your PLA-bottle activities? TR: After almost two years of product and in-market testing, we launched nationally in April 2008 in all Kroger grocery stores. We introduced Primo into a huge but somewhat controversial category of bottled water because we knew there was a better way to offer the convenience of single serve bottled water while not using a valuable, non renewable or sustainable, depleting resource - oil. By using Ingeo PLA from NatureWorks, we are using a renewable, sustainable resource and still provide the consumer what they need in a convenient package for refreshing, clean, great tasting bottled water. Producing the Ingeo resin is also much more environmentally friendly. In production, it emits 75% less greenhouse gases, uses 49% less fossil fuels and 45% less energy versus oil based PET resin production. So from the very beginning, the Primo bottle, made from plants, is better for our environment in multiple ways vs. PET. bM: What did you expect from the project? TR: We expected everyone to be amazed that you could make a bottle out of plants and have it look just like any other bottle. And they were amazed. When we tell people “this bottle is made from plants, not crude oil“ their reaction is always “Wow! Really? That’s great!“ We are educating the public. Many people in the US don‘t know how widely oil is used in packaging, especially beverage bottles. We are introducing an innovation in packaging that is better for our environment today and tomorrow but doesn’t change anything the consumer has to do. 16 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/09] Vol. 4

Bottle Applications bM: What products are you currently bottling in PLA and planning in future? TR: We are only bottling Primo water today. There are other beverages that are compatible with PLA including some fruit juices, ready to drink teas, milk. PLA does not react well to carbonated beverages today. We certainly will keep open our options for expanding our offering but are concentrating on bringing some new news, good news, to the bottled water category. bM: What is Primo‘s policy as to ‘end of life‘ of the bottles? Are you taking PLA bottles back too to reuse / recycle them or the like? The best ‘new life‘ scenario, a phrase I like better than ‘end of life‘ by the way, is recycling because when recovered, PLA can be recycled 100% back into lactic acid which means it could go 100% back into another Primo bottle. In the US Recycled PET plastic oil based bottles are only being recycled back into new bottles at about 8% or so. Most goes into carpeting and strapping. We encourage recycling of our bottle and all beverage bottles. We all need to do a better job at recycling plastic beverage bottles, as our rate of recovery is only 24.6% of the 5.8 billion pounds of plastic beverage bottles available in the US (2007 data). The Primo bottle can be sorted automatically using NIR equipment, a technology that is installed in most major recycling facilities. Black light ‘off’ And for those recyclers that do not have NIR we invested in developing technology that supports manual sorting. We add a special ‘light signature‘ into our preform so when our bottle is put under low wattage black light, it fluoresces and can easily be distinguished from PET bottles. This is intellectual property that we invested in to help the industry. It’s pretty cool! Another very unique feature about our Primo bottle is that it’s compostable (under proper composting guidelines). It proves ‘this Primo bottle is different!‘ Composting is a growing desire, especially on college campuses. We‘ve done four tests and each one is very consistent in its results. Michigan State University School of Packaging recently conducted two tests that showed the Primo bottle almost totally decomposed in two weeks! It was completely gone in four weeks. Tests at Community Recycling and Resource Recovery, Inc., Lamont, California showed almost complete degradation of our bottle in two weeks. Dave Baldwin, the General Manager of the facility said “it‘s the fastest I‘ve ever seen a package decompose in my facility. Amazing.“ The tests show that under proper composting conditions (heat, moisture, microbe‘s present) Primo bottles will completely decompose back into CO 2 , water and biomass in less than 60 days - easily. It‘s a great ‘return to nature‘ use and it doesn‘t go in the landfill. That‘s what most important. So the Primo bottle has multiple options for its ‘new life‘ - a term I‘m trying to get people to use. ‘End of life‘ means it‘s over. We want Primo to signal the next life of the plastic. Of course even greenhouse-gas-neutral incineration for energy recovery is an option too, but that should be the last step when no recycling or composting is available. Black light ‘on’ bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/09] Vol. 4 17

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