Can’t believe it’s not plastic – a guide to PLA
As part of the UTS Plastic Free by 2020 strategy, our new food court in UTS Central will be a world-leader in eliminating single-use plastics, thanks to alternatives like PLA.
It looks like plastic, feels like plastic and is used like plastic.
But it’s not plastic.
It’s PLA, a material made from plant matter (often corn starch or sugar cane) that’s commercially compostable.
Sometimes known as ‘bioplastic’, PLA is being used by a range of sustainability-conscious businesses to replace single-use plastic items that end up in landfill. It will be widely used in the new UTS Central food court.
Plastic waste is a big problem. Many single-use plastic items end up in landfill or contaminate natural environments. Millions of birds and animals die each year by ingesting plastic. Even more worrying, plastic breaks down into tiny micro-particles where it enters the food chain. Some human foods now contain plastic residues. A recent report from the University of Newcastle suggested people may be ingesting as much as 5 grams per week - the equivalent of a credit card!
In contrast, PLA can be commercially composted along with organic waste, with the compost recycled back into food production.
UTS is working to eliminate single-use plastic items from our campus including plastic straws, bags, food containers, bottles, and plastic-lined coffee cups – and PLA plus commercial composting are going to play a big role.
A plastic-free food court
The new food court in UTS Central is going plastic-free, setting the standard for sustainable practices. All single-use plastic items will be replaced with reusable or certified compostable alternatives, like cardboard, paper, bamboo, sugarcane and PLA.
All of the outlets in the food court have committed to make the change.
PLA and other certified compostable packaging will go into separate bins along with food waste, to be sent to a commercial composting facility.
How do you tell if a container is PLA? Right now in Australia there’s no standard labelling on PLA packaging but most containers will show it in some way. Look out for a green stripe, words like ‘biocup’ or direction that the item is compostable.
Of course, reusable containers are even better, so consider carrying your own BYO cup, drink bottle, straw, bag and lunch box.
Get involved in Plastic Free July by refusing single-use plastic products. Swap plastic bags, disposable coffee cups and single-use plastic cutlery and containers for re-usable or fully compostable alternatives.