Wal-Mart switches to corn-based plastic packaging

Starting Nov. 1, 2005, Wal-Mart will begin to substitute 114 million clear petroleum-based plastic clamshell containers with corn-based plastic packaging for cut fruit, herbs, strawberries, and Brussels sprouts.

The corn-based resin will also be used to make calling cards and gift cards sold at Wal-Mart over the holidays, as well as the windows in cake and doughnut boxes.

“With this change to packaging made from corn, we will save the equivalent of 800ꯠ gallons of gasoline and reduce more than 11 millions pounds of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Matt Kistler, vp for product development and private brands for the company’s Sam’s Club division, at the Sustainable Packaging Forum conference in Philadelphia. “This is a way to make a change positive for the environment and for business.”

This change means big things for NatureWorks LLC, the Minnesota-based manufacturer of PLA—the corn-based resin used to manufacture the new clamshell packages. Snehal Desai, global commercial director for NatureWorks, said that the product is competitively priced with petroleum-based plastics. PLA plastic, however, can be composted in carefully regulated municipal operations—it’s also recyclable.

Wal-Mart will carry the packaging in its 3껫 Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and Neighborhood Market stores across the United States.

The Philadelphia conferences focused on “sustainability,” a term used to describe a material’s ability to be recycled, but also how valuable it remains when it is reused. It was produced by Packaging Strategies Inc.

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