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One of the solutions is the PLA bottle, also known as the poly-lactic acid bottle, and it's fast becoming the go-to bottle as you work to go green and make your products environmentally friendly for your customers.

The plastic bottle controversy is naturally one that everyone is aware of. With your normal plastic bottles, it is still an issue that they're still being tossed aside to find their ways into landfills, resulting in a fight with Mother Nature as time progresses for their decomposition.

As with any technology, there are pros and cons to bear in mind. For PLA bottles, there are numerous issues for both.

PLA: How it's created

Still in its infancy when compared to other plastics, PLA is a plastic substitute that's made from fermented plant starch -- very often corn -- mainly in the United States or sugar cane elsewhere in the world. As a result, it's rapidly gaining popularity to the more traditional petroleum-based plastics and is set to become a serious replacement.

When corn is used to product PLA bottles, the following process is followed:

The corn kernels are milled and the dextrose is extracted.
This is then allowed to ferment, forming a by-product of lactic acid.
The base of the PLA plastic is created when polymers of lactic acid are formed.
The pellets formed are much like those that result from petroleum refining.
The pellets are made into various packaging products.
PLA bottles: The pros

If you look to PLA bottles as packaging solutions for your products, they are carbon-neutral due to their renewable, carbon-absorbing plant origins. In using plants, there are no toxic fumes during production. There are also no greenhouse gases or toxic fumes when the bottles are incinerated.

PLA breaks down into water and carbon dioxide. It won't disintegrate or degrade while stored on shelves. For degrading to occur, the bottle would have to be exposed to temperatures over 140°F and a relative humidity greater than 90 percent for approximately 60 to 80 days.

PLA bottles are inexpensive to produce. Because they're made from corn rather than petrochemicals, bottle production requires significantly less energy.

In fact, producing PLA uses 65 percent less energy than your traditional plastics. It also generates some 65 percent fewer greenhouse gases and contains no toxins so there's nothing to release into the atmosphere, food, or leach into the soil.

There are other numerous pros for customers who use your products when packaged in PLA plastic. These include:

It is compostable in approximately 6-12 months in a home composter. It will be unrecognizable from the rest of the compost.
The PLA bottles are freezer-safe.
PLA can handle hot items up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and 200 degrees Fahrenheit for utensils
PLA looks, handles, and feels just like plastic.
PLA is inexpensive to produce.
PLA bottles: The cons

While the biodegrading of PLA bottles is a welcome change, the process is slow. PLA bottles can break down into water and carbon dioxide in three months as part of a controlled composting environment. If the PLA bottle were left to its own devices in a tightly-packed landfill or compost bin with no oxygen or light, it could actually take 100 to 1,000 years to decompose. In a highly controlled composting facility, the bottles can actually be composed within 45 to 90 days.

Another problem with PLA bottles is that due to its plant-based origin, it has to be kept separate when it's recycled. Failing to do so results in contamination of the recycling stream. It's critical that it's transported to a composting facility instead of a recycling one.

Another issue involves composting facilities. There are currently only 113 industrial-grade composting facilities across the United States, making for a potentially expensive practice due to transportation and logistics.

There are other cons for PLA bottles that include:

When commercial composters are used, microbes are introduced to break down the organic materials. If large quantities of PLA were present, the lactic acid present would be wetter and more acidic. More oxygen would be required for the microbes, forcing the composting facility in turn to need yet more oxygen for the breakdown. Anaerobic digesters would solve this problem.
Corn would be removed from the world's food supply. Genetically-modified (GM) corn is also being used at this stage to answer this issue.
Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Plastics have found their way into countless numbers of products, and PLA is no exception. Using environmentally-friendly plastic is by far an improvement over other materials. PLA can be created into any plastic bottles and other items imaginable certainly makes it a winner hands down.