Compostable PLA cups hit the market

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LOS ANGELES (Jan. 11, 12 p.m. ET) — Compostable hot beverage containers are nothing new to the marketplace, but a cup from Repurpose Compostables Inc. has recently been made available for mass consumption at a major retail store.

Beginning late last year, Bed, Bath & Beyond stores around the country, along with the company’s website, have offered the Repurpose insulated disposable cup.

“We always wanted to get to retail,” said Corey Scholibo, chief marketing officer for Repurpose. “We always wanted to bring compostables and bioplastic products to mainstream consumers in a way that, I feel, really hasn’t been done.”

The cups originally launched in 2009, but this is the first time they have been introduced to commercial store shelves. A 12-pack of 12-ounce cups sells for $4.99. The Los Angeles-based company said it plans on offering 16-ounce cups sometime early this year.

Until now, Repurpose’s cups have been sold to the food service industry as part of the company’s line of compostable products. The cup won first prize in sustainability at the Specialty Coffee Association of America annual show in Houston last year as well as most innovative new product at the Coffee Fest show in Chicago.

Repurpose anticipates having another retailer sell its cups in the first or second quarter, Scholibo said, and the company is interested in selling to businesses like Starbucks Coffee Co., which has been searching for years for an easier-to-recycle coffee cup.

“We’ve talked to certain companies like Jamba Juice, and we’ve reached out to Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.,” Scholibo said. “But we haven’t been approached by Starbucks.”

In traditional insulated cups, multiple layers of paper are added. Repurpose’s cups do the same, but with a patented insulation material, which is on a single-wall cup.

Repurpose cups are made from polylactic acid — made from corn — and require 65 percent less carbon dioxide to make than plastic, the company said. The lids also are compostable.

The company says the cups can be composted in a commercial composter within 90 days, but not in a backyard compost pile. And not everyone has access to commercial composting.

“Compostables is a bit of a double-edge sword,” Scholibo said. “Some people are like, ‘If they can’t be composted yet, then why do it?’ But to me, and us, compostables is a step on the road to the greenest option available.”

A landfill is not an ideal scenario as final resting place, Scholibo said, but “it’s still going to be the cleanest solution, if it ends up hitting a landfill, then a petroleum-based product.

“Even if it ends up in a landfill, it’s not going to leach in the environment,” Scholibo said. “It will eventually break down and it didn’t use petroleum in the product, so you’re not drinking petroleum.”