Plastics industry defender and consulting engineer Allan Griff spotted that paragraph and sent me a quick note: “I assume the cup maker said this, but PLA is a plastic, isn't it?”
Absolutely right, I replied, so I quickly corrected the story.
But Griff wasn't finished. He did some research on what else Repurpose and Bed Bath were saying about the cups, and he found more misleading information.
Both companies were openly contrasting their PLA product to “plastic,” he said, feeding the public's fear of the plastics industry.
Griff found this on the Bed Bath & Beyond site:
“The plant-based cup is made from corn, not oil like traditional disposable cups, so it's non-toxic and BPA-free. It also lowers your carbon footprint, and uses soy-based inks, so it is compatible with a zero-waste program.”
As Griff points out, mentioning BPA in a commercial message about foam cups is like putting “no trans fats” on a water bottle label. Of course there's no bisphenol A. There's none in polystyrene cups, either.
He did some more checking and found that the cup maker, Repurpose, said this about itself: “Repurpose makes products from plants, not petroleum, using Ingeo resin.”
Griff said, “As for petroleum, it takes plenty of petro-based energy to grow the corn and convert it to the compostable plastic (yes, plastic) PLA. As for carbon dioxide, by far the biggest producers are heating, cooling, lighting and transportation, and all this greenwashing is really a distraction from having to deal with room temperatures, lighting waste, and capricious car use.”
Did I mention that Griff is a pit bull when it comes to defending plastics against misinformation?
Griff shared his correspondence with the American Chemistry Council's plastics division, and he's also including it in his file of topics to discuss in a course he teaches at the University of California Berkeley Adult Extension program, “Plastics in the Environment.”
That's not a typo — Griff is teaching a course on plastics in the environment at Berkeley. Readers in California should consider enrolling — it's sure to be both informative and entertaining.
Meanwhile, I'm happy to share Griff's efforts to shine the light on some companies that are using “bolonium” [one of his favorite terms] to prey on public plastophobia.
Well done, Allan Griff. Keep up the good work.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”