15 October 2010

Stonyfield Farm sustainably motivated with first ever corn-based yogurt packaging

Scientists have been hunched over in their laboratories, working feverishly to develop plant-based plastics that go easier on the environment and apparently, their long nights have really been paying off. In recent years, we’ve heard about everything from Coca-Cola’s 30% sugar cane and molasses based PlantBottle and Snyder’s of Hanover’s 90% plant-based renewable Ingeo PLA (polylactic acid) organic pretzel bags to NatureWorks fully compostable 100% corn-based resin food containers and Cereplast’s incredibly sustainable tapioca, corn, wheat, potato and algae-based contributions.

Weaning the global population off of fossil fuel based plastics appears to be a viable reality, and given the generally abysmal recycling rates of conventional plastics, it’s an absolute necessity. While we’re all sick and tired of hearing about how one time use water bottles have become the scourge of the environment, yogurt cups – which are often made with #5 or #6 polystyrene -- are no better. In countless municipalities, they’re not even accepted via conventional recycling facilities.

Stonyfield Farm – the manufacturer of natural and organic dairy products such as milk, ice cream and conventional/soy-based yogurt – is determined to change the status quo with the launch of their 93% polylactic acid-based yogurt multi-pack containers. Made with fermented corn starch, which could conceivably be shifted to switch grass in the future, this manufacturing transition will enable them to achieve a 48% reduction in their overall carbon footprint. Unfortunately, while the bio-packaging is certainly greener, it is not yet compostable (due to its thickness) or recyclable (due to the absence of PLA recycling facilities across the country except for one sole facility in Wisconsin).

Although using organic-based corn in their new greener packaging would be cost-prohibitive at this point, they are earnestly trying to consider their impact on the environment by offsetting the negative aspects of supporting GM corn crops. By offering Nebraskan farmers greater financial incentives to use GM-free seeds, they hope to inspire a mini organic trend which would tremendously benefit our ecosystem given that 63% of all American corn acres are currently planted with genetically modified seed.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Stonyfield Farm’s Made With Plants stamp, which is now emblazoned on the bottom of the following yogurt varieties: B-Healthy, B-Well, YoBaby, YoToddler, YoKids and O’Soy. In the meantime, here's a friendly reminder for anyone who consumes dairy brands packaged in #5 or #6 plastic. Preserve, the manufacturer of 100% recycled #5 plastic toothbrushes, razors, tableware and kitchen goods, has expanded their Gimme 5 recycling program to include mail-in and drop off locations across the country (Whole Foods is at the top of the list), so be sure to lick 'em clean before you recycle them ;)

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
A dedicated green journalist and currently commissioned to write a comprehensive reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah Leigh hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit: PRNewsFoto/Stonyfield Farm