Cargill Dow LLC has expanded its NatureWorks polylactic acid products to include grades for blow molded bottles.
The company has provided the corn-based PLA resin for two new blow molded products now on the U.S. market: a spring-fed bottled water sold in Colorado and an organic milk container made in Iowa. Both bottles are made using injection stretch blow molding, said spokesman Michael O'Brien.
The applications, new on the market this year, are the first in bottles for the material.
The bottles join a growing list of thermoforming and film wrap applications. The company is a 50-50 joint venture of Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co. and Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc.
Founded in 1997, the Minnetonka, Minn.-based partnership has picked up several new applications in the past year. They include a new BioWare line of cold drink cups and food containers, sold in Europe by HuhtamÃ¤ki Oyj of Espoo, Finland, and thermoformed containers holding Newman's Own salads and Del Monte produce, made by Clear Lam Packaging Inc., based in Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Another thermoformer, Fabri-Kal Corp. of Kalamazoo, Mich., made more than 40,000 PLA-based cups that were distributed at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colo., in June. And the material has made its way into fruit and gift baskets, both in the container and the wrap, sold by Basket Ease Inc. of Prior Lake, Minn.
The company displayed many of those new products, as did some of its customers, at Pack Expo International 2004, held Nov. 7-11 in Chicago.
Cargill continually is looking for new applications and markets for its products, especially in the disposable packaging area, said chief marketing officer Dennis McGrew.
``We can glimpse into the future and see that [plastic] resin will become scarcer,'' McGrew said. ``Disposable packaging will not be the best of use of that scarce resin. We provide a good alternative for packaging-based plastics.''
The company operates a plant in Blair, Neb., that can produce more than 300 million pounds of PLA annually.
The facility is nowhere near capacity, but was built so the firm would not have to be concerned with PLA resin shortages, according to McGrew.
With the price of some plastic resins rising, especially polyethylene, PLA resin now is priced similarly to its plastic competition, he said.
``That's something we can't control, but [it] has worked in our favor,'' he said.
In blow molding, the company is working with Biota Brands of America Inc., a regional packager of premium spring water based in Ouray, Colo. The company has sold its water bottles, using the corn-based resin, to natural-food and gourmet supermarkets in three states, O'Brien said. The film label on the Biota bottles also are made from PLA, he added.
Cargill Dow also has sold its resin to Naturally Iowa Dairy of Clarinda, Iowa.
The cooperative dairy blow molds bottles for its organic and natural milk, sold in a half-gallon size, O'Brien said. The company is working on single-serve bottles using PLA, he said.
Those applications are part of Cargill Dow's target market for monolayer, cold-fill bottles - popular for water, juices and dairy products - that have a short shelf life, O'Brien said. The bottles can be made transparent, similar to PET containers, he said.