Packs made from maize have replaced petroleum based plastics packaging in the delicatessen section of US grocery retail stores Nature’s and Wild Oats.

The NatureWorks PLA (polylactide plastic) is said to be the first commercially viable biopolymer based on annually renewable resources to be used in large scale North American commercial grocery applications. Wild Oats is using packaging made with NatureWorks PLA in 11 locations, with plans to expand the campaign across the United States into all 77 of its stores. The maize-derived containers are currently being used to serve fruit, salads, cheese, deserts and other delicatessen items.

“Customer response to this new packaging has been terrific,” says Kurt Luttecke, Wild Oats Area director of operations. “Not only are these new containers entirely natural, they’re as functional or better than the plastics tubs that the industry uses in terms of strength, clarity and sealing in the flavour and aroma of our delicatessen products.” The three sizes of cold food containers look identical to traditional plastics packs. The company is negotiating with a local service provider to collect the returned containers and, after a 47-day composting process, bring back commercial compost that customers can buy as all-natural plant food for their gardens.

The technology to make NatureWorks PLA begins by ‘harvesting’ carbon that has been removed from the air by maize plants during photosynthesis and stored in grain starches. This is achieved by breaking down the starches into natural plant sugars and, through a simple process of fermentation and separation, using the carbon and other elements in these natural sugars to make the PLA. NatureWorks


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