Zero Toxics Knowledge Base
Polylactic acid AKA polylactide (PLA) is a bioplastic made from plant material instead of petroleum,
PLA is made from lactic acid, a completely natural substance derived from renewable plant materials. Lactic acid is made from sugar (dextrose) derived from corn, tapioca root, sugar cane, and other agricultural products. In fact, our bodies take sugar (glucose) and turn it into lactic acid as fuel for our muscles. It’s the same process.
Because PLA is sold as a “compostable” product that can be collected and composted in community composting facilities, there can be no petroleum material of any kind used in its manufacture, per the regulations governing “compostable” products intended for community composting. After all, compost needs to be able to sustain the growing of a plant.
A Simple Process
Making PLA is a simple process:
- A feedstock is chosen as a source of sugar
- Microorganisms are added to the sugar for fermentation, which creates lactic aid.
- Lactic acid is combined with a catalyst to make lactide.
- lactide + water = PLA
The most common feedstock is GMO corn grown with pesticides and tin octoate as the catalyst.
But other feedstocks and catalyst can be used.
Generally, a manufacturer will not disclose the feedstock of their PLA, however, some do,
GOTS approves PLA as an accessory material for their certified organic textile products, but only if it does not contain GMOs or other toxic materials that are not allowed. So GOTS-Approved Polylactide would be a nontoxic version of this material.
If not GOTS-Approved, and no other data about the material is given, its likely to be GMO PLA with pesticides and tin catalyst. No GMOs are present in the PLA at the end of the process, but it’s a convention process using conventional materials.
ZERO TOXICS is rooted in my forty years of research and experience living toxic-free. I'm gathering and organizing the data I have to make this knowledge available to everyone. Feel free to ask questions, share data, and join in the discussion in the comments section below.
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