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PLA: A converter's viewpoint

Chris Burger, coffee product manager of Fres-Co System USA, offers his take on using polylactic acid (PLA), a sustainable material derived from corn, in film structures for coffee bags.

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Burger, who has worked for Fres-Co for more than 16 years, says, "I do not remember a response such as the one I have seen from our launch of the PLA structure. I talked about this structure during my National Coffee Association presentation [in October] with a very positive response."

For Newman's Own Organics coffees from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (see main story, Newman's Own Organics coffee bags restructured), the 80-ga PLA replaced 48-ga PET in the substrate. “With the increased PLA thickness, we were able to reduce the thickness of the LLDPE,” Burger points out.

The switch of PLA for PET made little difference to the film structure’s performance.
“Our in-depth testing showed no positive or negative issues with [these] laminates,” says Burger, “and we made only minor temperature changes to GMCR’s GL-14 baggers to run the new film.” The GL-14 produces Corner Seal® bags that create diagonal stress on the film during bag forming, yet the new PLA film had no problems with the stress, Burger adds.

GMCR was its second customer to use the new PLA structure—Jim’s Organic Coffee in 12-oz bags was the first, Burger says. Unlike Newman's Own, Jim's took a slightly more overt stance to promote the environmental aspect, albeit via print on the bag bottom: “This bag is the first generation of sealed, stay fresh coffee bags to include renewable resources in its design.”

Says Burger, “I expect many more coffee customers to come online [with PLA] during the next year.”

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