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Vitamins switch into bioplastic PLA containers

This summer, Highland Laboratories, Mt. Angel, OR, began to replace its more than 200 opaque and amber PET bottles used for dietary supplements with similar containers made of polylactic acid from NatureWorks LLC. PLA is a bioplastic derived from corn.

"It makes sense for us providing organic and wholesome nutrition, including dietary supplements, to complete the cycle with earth-friendly packaging," says Candy Scott, chief executive officer of the private label and contract manufacturer of nutrition supplements. She expects to have about 40 products in the opaque white 250-cc size PLA bottles by summer's end, with a 200-cc size next. Amber bottles will follow in 2007.

The white pigmentation provides UV protection and is such a small percent of the composition that it does not affect the environmental aspect, according to blow molder Alpha Packaging. The bottles are supplied through distributor TricorBraun.

The PLA is one-third more costly than PET, says Scott, but Highland is absorbing the added costs because "we feel that this is an important thing for the environment. Once consumers are aware of this packaging option, they love it."

Highland is promoting its eco-friendly packaging by adding to the top of the closures a pressure-sensitive label printed with the words "corn based, earth friendly". The company is testing several different brands and variations of labels made of recycled paper, which the company has used for promotional materials and catalogs for years. That change from virgin paper labels should come shortly, says Scott. Highland is also looking into PLA-based closures.

By Rick Lingle, Technical Editor, Packaging World
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